Next Wednesday, Jan. 22, local spoken word group Right Side Up Poets (RSU) will bring their remarkable performances back to SOhO for the second annual “Talking to Strangers: An Evening of Spoken Word,” starting at 8 p.m.

The show features many faces that will be familiar to those who have attended spoken word events on campus or downtown in the past. All of the performers are current or former students of Prof. Kip Fulbeck’s popular “Art 137: Spoken Word” course. After packing the MCC quarter after quarter for their class shows, Fulbeck’s all-star performers decided it was time to bring their talents to a wider audience.

The first “Talking to Strangers” in Nov. 2012 was a standing-room only event that drew attendees from Santa Barbara and beyond and garnered much praise from audience-members and media outlets, many of whom were unsure of what to expect from a spoken word show.

Current performer and recent UCSB graduate Natalie Earhart remembers how it felt to be in the audience for the first RSU event at SOhO.

“I was just standing in the back, kind of in the dark trying to take everything in,” said Earhart. “I remember being very much in awe of everybody. It was so funny. I was just so glad to be there.”

Spoken word is not your typical, textbook poetry of rhyming couplets and hard-to-digest metaphors by old white dudes. It is fluid story-telling that feeds on the energy of the audience and gives it back to them ten-fold. It’s sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes freaky and almost always inspiring.

UCSB graduate Jinling Huo (Class of ‘12) performed two pieces at the first RSU event: one spectacular rant about expectations and stealing cheese and another lovely duet, replete with music and besos, with collaborator Eddie Perez.

Huo shared that coming back to perform is a shift for her since she’s been in the “soulless grind” of post-grad life — “Nine to seven, L.A. traffic, all that jazz” — but that she’s excited for the challenge.

“[The last show] was way more gratifying than I thought it would be,” said Huo. “I thought that our [class] show was the best thing that could have happened to me, spoken word wise. But these were strangers that didn’t know me. Their response was overwhelmingly positive. It made me feel really good about getting up there and being honest about myself.”

Huo will bring back the honesty — and hilarity — in a new piece that is sure to be just as startling as the last one coming from this seemingly cool, calm and collected young woman. And it will definitely be more graphic. But we won’t give it away.

Other returners include recent graduate Kevin Ferguson, who literally threw cards at last years’ audience in a piece about a teenage magician gone rogue, and current students Mel Rosenberg, Ryan Yamamoto and Demi Anter. These last three founded RSU along with Chanel Miller and have opened for renowned spoken word artists including Beau Sia and Anis Mojgani.

Earhart shared that while she was intimidated to start performing, she has come to love it and that she is excited to share her artistry in this particular venue.

“I feel honored that I was asked to participate with people that I think are so talented,” said Earhart. “The fact that I’m included in that group now is overwhelmingly gratifying.”

Newcomers include Earhart and Miller as well as Miranda Morgan, Katie Edwards, Sasza Lohrey, Kelly Hendrickson, Megan Ogle, Elizabeth Folk and more.

Audiences will get to see these poets share their best in anecdotes ranging from texting to sensuous dancing to sensuous moms (also: sensuous texting with moms), all while enjoying delicious food from SOhO’s locally-sourced menu.

To get a sneak peak of what the night has to offer, the curious can tune into KCSB 91.9 fm tomorrow between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to hear select performances and conversation between the artists and “Future Daze” hosts Bennett Piscitelli and Yibing Guo.

When asked what guests can expect from the show, Huo offered this prediction.

“Whatever it is you get in the end will be a surprise and will be a kick and will make you want to come back for more, because I guarantee you’ve probably never experienced anything quite like it.”

Guests can call SOhO for dinner reservations (it’s the only way to guarantee your seat). Tickets are $5 for students and/or with dinner reservations, and $10 without a student I.D. Find out more at


A version of this story appeared on page 8 of Thursday, January 16, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.