When most people come down with a bug, they opt for a night spent in bed with Netflix and chicken noodle soup on tap.
When Shane Koyczan comes down with a bug, he opts to spill his heart out to 350 strangers.
At least this was the case last Friday, when the Canadian spoken-word virtuoso delivered an epic “poetry reading” at the Fredericton Playhouse, peppered only slightly by the occasional nose-blowing or throat-clearing.
But Koyczan’s show was by no means your typical poetry reading.
In lieu of your conventional dark basement and sea of snapping fingers, Koyczan’s performance not only filled the seats with fans of all ages – with a noticeably higher concentration of excitable preteens who clung onto each other and squealed and sighed like they were front row at The Beatles – but unfailingly prompted an orchestra of uproarious applause, laughter and sometimes even tears.
From tantalizing yarns about his first crush, a girl named Penny who stood up to his bullies and made beautiful snow angels, to touching spiels about his relationship with his boogeyman-fighting grandfather and the revelation that “not every hero wears a cape,” Koyczan had his spectators absolutely rapt from start to finish.
One of Koyczan’s main objectives at each of his shows is to evoke emotion from his audience, to help them feel. He believes it’s something we as a society may have forgotten how to do.
One glimpse at the faces of his audience during any one of his extraordinary monologues last Friday would show you that he had accomplished that goal.
From choking on tears of empathy during such heart-wrenching pieces as the one he delivered about the death of a friend, to fighting back tears of irrepressible laughter during a piece written by a friend about bad spelling, Koyczan was by no means the only person in the room expressing his feelings that night.
It was of surprise to no one when Koyczan received an immediate and explosive standing ovation after delivering his final piece of the evening: the groundbreaking anti-bullying spiel, To This Day, which went viral in early 2013.
In a stunning encore performance, he belted out a verse about the importance of having a voice – something Koyczan must know better than anyone.