Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center reopens, back on stage ’25 Mics’

Newport News

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Calling all poets and spoken-word artists: Grab your masks and prepare to grab the mic in front of a “live” audience Tuesday night.

“25 Mics,” a monthly staple at Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center in Newport News, is resuming live performances.

The showcase, for professional and aspiring poets and spoken-word artists, abruptly ended last April because of the COVID-19 pandemic and health restrictions, according to producer Nina Brewton.

Gov. Ralph Northam banned such gatherings after public health officials warned crowds could further spread the potentially deadly virus.

On the reopening:

“It’s a wonderful feeling,” said Brewton, lighting up as she counted down the hours to the end of the year-long shutdown.

Performer Clayton Singleton, who is also a Norfolk high school teacher, said the shutdown didn’t stop the flow of creative juices. He performed virtually, with Brewton as “25 Mics” continued on Zoom.

“Like every type of challenge comes the possibility of growth. So, COVID did sit us down and make us ‘seed ourselves’ if you will, so that we could grow some new fruit that we’d never eaten before,” said Singleton, noting how the organizers were able to make the show accessible “to the visually impaired community.”

But, as 25 Mics continued by Zoom, Brewton said it just didn’t have the same “zip.”

“As a ‘creative,’ it is important to have ‘community,’ and we, it, just doesn’t ‘hit’ the same
across virtual space,” Brewton said.

Brewton said although Downing-Gross is glad to welcome live performers and an audience, she’ll continue to offer 25 Mics on the Facebook page.

And, a health note to those coming out to the theater at 25th Street and Wickham: you must wear a mask. Performers can remove theirs when they step in front of the mic. Brewton said other health measures will also be in effect.

And as everyone steps through the front doors, Brewton said you will be directed to follow the arrows, set up “so people know there’s a specific direction you’re supposed to go in. We’re still adhering to all guidelines and trying to be as safe as possible.”

Performing artist “Q-5,” Quinton Jennings, a regular at 25 Mics, said he’ll be back with new material and popular themes for those that follow him.

“I have a mantra which is three-pronged “Find your thing, do your thing, share it with the world.”

Showtime for 25 Mics is Tuesday night from 7-8:30 p.m. at Downing Gross Cultural Arts Center.

Click here to learn more.

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