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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Quiet Lightning Turns in Strong Performance as Series Aims to Become Nonprofit Group

Posted By on Tue, Mar 8, 2011 at 8:55 AM

Evan Karp, president
The North Beach bar 15 Romolo was packed. At the end of intermission, Quiet Lightning, series co-founder Evan Karp stood before the microphone to make an unusual announcement.

"Today," he said, "we filed our articles for incorporation as a nonprofit." The crowd went wild. To be fair, it had been pretty generous to people in front of that microphone all night. Karp raised his arms to explain what this meant: "Soon, the money you give us will be tax deductible. But, um, you can still give us money tonight."

It was a short announcement, but it was a big one - with potential to change the SF literary landscape.

The new nonprofit Quiet Lightning will have Karp as its president and his longtime collaborator Charles Kruger as its chairman. Their exact duties ares still unknown, but Karp seems poised to continue heading Quiet Lightning's artistic efforts. He has shown a willingness to alter the event's streamlined form and get experimental. "I like what we do," he says. "But it's been a year, and I don't want us to seem stale."

Rob McLaughlin: "I don't advertise. There's nothing to sell."
There was no danger of that last night. This Quiet Lightning started with an unusually strong first set, including:
  • Rob McLaughlin - in a standout performance - read a story of cruising for hookups gone horribly wrong. "I don't advertise," his character told the crowd. "There's nothing to sell."  On the other hand, "Worse looking people than me get laid all the time."
  • Poet Renee Nelson grabbed the microphone and shouted "Cock Blockers!" - which might have been the title of her poem but was definitely a crowd pleaser all on its own.
  • Graham Gremore uttered the memorable words "He enjoys being human! If I were you I'd be worried about the girl who wants to be a goddamn blowfish!"
  • Shideh Etaat came out of nowhere to read a strange and wonderful story of the ancient caliphate, a burning synagogue, and a hand dipped in dog's blood on a Shiite holy day. I don't say this often about writers, but: fuck yeah.
Shideh Etaat: fuck yeah
Elise Hunter, Chris Cole, James Warner, Susan Browne, and Maureen Blennerhassett turned in crowd-pleasing performances for the second half as well. It was a high note for Karp to announce the launch of Quiet Lightning the organization, an organization that, they admit, has big dreams and a lot of organizing to do.

Kruger talks about holding fundraising events, hopefully attended by some of the city's A-list literary scene, and pulling in big donors. They may have the chops to pull it off. Many of this town's literati have fallen hard for Karp and Kruger, who show up - with video cameras - and pay rapt attention. If their nonprofit can monetize the love that writers have for people who listen, then Quiet Lightning, already one of the most open and inclusive of the city's reading series, could be poised to get pretty damn loud.

The packed house last night seemed to suggest they were well on their way, but Kruger waved that off. "Actually, I think a lot of these people are just tourists who were at the bar and had no idea there was going to be a reading. Now they're thinking 'Wow! I'm having such an authentic North Beach experience!'" He laughed. "But, I do notice, a lot of them stayed over the break."

Going legit was the easy part: Quiet Lightning is now a reading series in a hurry.

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Benjamin Wachs


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