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When Fairfax High School senior Nelson Echeverria joined the school’s poetry club as a sophomore, he wasn’t comfortable speaking in front of people and didn’t feel confident about his writing skills.
“I wasn’t a very good writer at first, and I had the worst stage fright. I would get up on stage and just laugh and laugh and laugh, and then I would collapse on the floor,” Echeverria said. “But I liked the poetry club, and found out it was a really cool place. It’s very inspirational, it takes people on a journey of themselves.”
Two years later, Echeverria is the vice president of the poetry club, known as “The Beatnix”, whose members will be performing in a show at the Original Farmers Market every Wednesday in April. The group will perform “Choreopoem”, a piece that involves spoken word, poetry, dance and music that is a combination of individual works created by the students. Choreopoem deals with teens’ perception of celebrities and fame, and offers a message that is pertinent both to the students’ peers and to adults, according to Fairfax High senior Laura Rogers, president of The Beatnix.
“Sometimes, adults don’t hear the voice of teenagers. They listen to us, but they don’t know what we are feeling,” Rogers said. “I believe this show will show how much we love to write and how much we love to express ourselves, and that we do want to be heard.”
Choreopoem is based on the premise of a group of teens visiting the Original Farmers Market and seeing a teen celebrity. The Beatnix members then reflect on their own perceptions about fame and about how some teens idolize celebrities.
“It’s about how fame affects people and what fame means to different people,” Rogers said. “The show jumps from group to group, across the stage. There is singing, poetry, spoken word, a lot of back and forth between people, as well as single pieces of work. The majority of Choreopoem is from the students themselves, and then it was woven together.”
The Beatnix work closely with the Greenway Arts Alliance, a non-profit organization that supports arts programs at Fairfax High School through fundraising and theatrical productions at the Greenway Court Theatre on Fairfax Avenue. Artist HeavenNezCree, a program director for Greenway and the director of the Beatnix’s production, said she is extremely proud of the preparation and dedication the teens have put into Choreopoem.
“They are really passionate about poetry, which is rare for teenagers now,” HeavenNezCree said. “It shows they are coming out of their shells and expressing themselves. A lot didn’t like to write or read before, and for them to put on a show like this, it is really special. I am so excited, and I bubble over a little bit because I am so proud of them.”
The Beatnix is comprised of 22 students, ages 14 to 18. The group was started five years ago and meets once a week on Wednesdays, but lately the members have been getting together nearly every day after school for rehearsals for the upcoming show, according to Echeverria. He added that The Beatnix represents the vast diversity found at Fairfax High School, and includes everyone from regular students to aspiring athletes, actors and actresses. Echeverria said the club has helped him become a better student and become more confident about his abilities.
“There are a lot of students who join The Beatnix to see how it is, and they stay because they like what we do,” Echeverria said. “It’s a place of trust, where people can write about their feelings and know that it is where it is going to stay. There are no negative vibes here.”
Whitney Weston, co-artistic director for the Greenway Art Alliance, also said she is proud of the Beatnix’s accomplishments, and added that the club embodies the role Greenway is trying to play at the school. The Greenway Arts Alliance raises funds through the weekly Melrose Trading Post swap meet and other sources, and uses the funding to bring artists and teachers into the school to conduct arts programs.
“The students are so incredible, and it is so important for the community to hear the Fairfax students’ voices,” Weston said. “Especially with arts funding being cut, our role is becoming more and more important in keeping the arts alive.”
Pierson Blaetz, co-artistic director for Greenway, added that he hopes The Beatnix can expand and perform at other venues in the future.
“I just think it is a cool thing. We really love it when we get a chance to give a young artist a voice,” Blaetz said. “Greenway’s mission has always been to bring down those fences, and how we can get the students into the community and the community onto the campus. Poetry is a great way to show the heart and soul of this school.”
The free performances by the Beatnix will be held at 6 p.m. on April 6, 13, 20 and 27 on the West Patio stage at the Original Farmers Market, 6333 W. 3rd St. For information, call (323)933-9211, or visit www.farmersmarketla.com.
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