Behind a closed, wooden door covered in posters and flyers, there is a room in Donkey Coffee cluttered with the kind of couches that steal patrons away from the world and the kind of old wooden chairs and tables that beg to be decorated with old ceramic mugs. At the farthest end from the door is a stage, furnished with a piano, a desk and a lamp.
On a typical weeknight this room is filled with the studious, the chatty and the introverted. But on Tuesday nights the room becomes Designated Space, a place for spoken word, whether that be a rant, a poem, a monologue or a song.
Griffin Allman, a freshman studying fine arts, sat in front of the stage with a few friends, his jacket still on and his backpack pressed to his leg, like he was waiting for something to start – or maybe for something to end. One by one people volunteered to step up to the microphone. Finally, Allman raised his hand, ran his fingers through his hair and then jumped on stage.
He read through a poem about a rough prom night and then proceeded to introduce a second reading.
“I guess I need to do trigger warnings for this one,” he said. “It’s something that I think about a lot. So, there’s a lot of thoughts of suicide and death and blood and stuff going on. I figured I should say that.”
That was Allman’s first time doing spoken word.
“All of that was true, and the second one is something that I think about a lot when I drive,” he said.
Allman doesn’t consider himself a poet because he doesn’t rhyme – which could be heard in his performance. He prefers prose.
Allman is no stranger to public speaking. He spent a lot of his extra time in high school doing speech and debate and is on the team at Ohio University as well. Most of Allman’s friends in high school were in competitive sports, but he wanted to compete in a different way.
“It was really exciting for me to find out that there is just this whole other world where you can competitively compete and win scholarship money, for just competitive emotion.”
When he takes the stage during debates, it is usually to recite a dramatic monologue about true events, like he did on Tuesday. But for Allman, Designated Space was a different beast. Before his performance, the freshman sat quietly, studying each speaker.
“Surprisingly, I still get a little nervous talking, and since this is the first time that I’ve spoken here I was a little not sure if I wanted to. But I just figured I’d go for it, and after I did it I felt a lot better.”
And it was noticeable. After Allman stepped off stage, he ran his fingers through his hair again, but this time with a huge grin on his face. He encouraged one of his friends to get on stage and speak as well.
“Speaking competitively, when it comes to speech and debate, is something that I love to do,” he said.