Boxcar Voices gives students a venue for expression

Grades. Family. Strip Clubs. Teachers. Sex. Regrets. Hope. This is only a small sample of topics that were brought up as UNA students took part in a poetry reading Sept. 13 at the end. theatre in Florence.

 Boxcar Voices is a regular event that is gaining momentum here at UNA. The small theater located a few minutes from campus was filled with laughter and emotion throughout the event.

Andy Thigpen, a UNA student who helped formed Boxcar Voices in March 2011, said the event gives students a chance to be creative without being judged.

“Anyone who wants to participate can express themselves in an environment where people are open and receiving,” Thigpen said. “Here, people can say things they might be ashamed of in the real world.”

UNA graduate J. Scott Long is owner of the end. theatre. He opens his establishment to the sounds of Boxcar Voices as a way to help give back to the school and community he loves.

 “It’s a great way to get your feet wet,” Long said. “Students have the opportunity to enhance their resume creatively, put themselves in front of a different audience and get involved with the community.”

The event is free to the public with small donations being accepted to help cover the costs of opening the theater.

“Any extra money will be used to help bring well-known poets and established writers into the event,” Thigpen said.

Boxcar Voices is open to everyone, not just English majors. Attendees are encouraged to join in, but it is not required.

“For every person that reads, there are three or four that will not get up and read,” Thigpen said. “And that’s fine because the audience is needed just as much as the artists.”

“This is a chance for UNA students to see this whole other creative universe,” Long said. “We get students from all sorts of majors coming in here, and they all seem to really enjoy it a lot.”

Boxcar Voices is currently a poetry and storytelling event, but Thigpen said he plans to branch out in many ways over the course of this school year.

“This area has so much culture and history, especially musically,” Thigpen said. “Singer-songwriter nights, movie nights and the dramatic readings of books such as ‘The Great Gatsby’ will all be a part of Boxcar Voices in the future.”

Boxcar Voices will also be participating in UNA’s Storytelling Festival this year.

“People will be competing for the best story, and the top three will go on to read in the festival,” Thigpen said.

Boxcar Voices had less of a competitive vibe and seemed more like an eclectic family reunion or party.

“It’s a breath of fresh air” said Jonathon Dunlap, a UNA student who performed two poems at the event. “It’s good to see all this creative energy flowing through Florence.”