With the exception of Christopher Stevens' purple hair and possibly Terra McVoy's funky eyeglass frames, there isn't a lot about either of the two that one would describe as "demon-esque." And yet every month both Stevens and McVoy slide into the role of the "Info-Demon," organizing and hosting the monthly Eyedrum event called Info Demo.
"We're kind of like an artsy-fartsy Sonny & Cher," Stevens explains of the duo, which began hosting what essentially is a literary variety show in January 2006.
"It's sort of like an adult show-and-tell," McVoy says, but Stevens adds that with Info Demo, you never really know what to expect: "There could be naked people reading poetry, there will be music, multimedia presentations. ... It's all about variety."
March's Info Demo 2.7 presented the theme "Things Falling Apart." The results were predictably unpredictable, including one segment by a man who called himself "Barely There Barefoot Bill." Barefoot with his toes painted a flashy shade of green, Bill shared tape recordings of his experience living in Belfast, Northern Ireland, when his apartment was bombed by the Irish Republican Army. Then there was Erin Prentiss, who displayed her collection of "collected" photographs – which she finds at garage and yard sales or buys on eBay – and read short stories inspired by the pictures.
Getting such a wide variety of presenters has a lot to do with the fact that the Info Demos are so freewheeling. Something all the presenters have in common is that their presentations enhance the nature of storytelling and, through their mixed presentations, expand the audience's idea of what art is. It makes the multidisciplinary Eyedrum the perfect backdrop for the Info Demo, which has included past themes such as "How to Get That Old-Timey Feeling," "How to Be Hot" and "Skin."
"The 'Skin' theme was really great," says McVoy, a former Creative Loafing contributor. "[Presenter and filmmaker] Andy Ditzler made a film about the skin of a lemon that just blew me away, and we also had a local burlesque dance troupe perform."
McVoy and Stevens usually decide on themes after intense brainstorming sessions, with a method to their madness.
"[We] try to pick themes that are simultaneously universal and personal; one where everyone would have something to say," McVoy says. With the success of the past few Info Demos, McVoy and Stevens are able to be a little discriminating when they choose their presenters.
"With presenters, we're looking for a creative approach to the topic," McVoy adds. "It's not an opportunity for people to get attention; we want it to be both informative and entertaining for a reason.
"I guess we're looking for 'infotainment.'"
With those characteristics in mind, McVoy and Stevens try to create a show that gives Atlantans not just a chance to perform but also share experiences.
"As grown-ups, you don't really get a chance to do show-and-tell," McVoy explains. "I just like to give people an opportunity to express their creative selves. Just because we all have jobs doesn't mean we have to stop being creative."
Stevens began attending Info Demo, hopping up on stage one evening. After learning about Info Demo from a friend, Stevens was asked by the former organizer of Info Demo, J.S. Van Boskirk, to fill in for a no-show musical act. "Probably like a lot of the presenters, I don't really consider myself a performer. If anything, I'm a writer that works on a lot of stuff that doesn't have a publishing outlet," Stevens says.
Both McVoy and Stevens attended the Demos regularly until Van Boskirk made plans to move to Los Angeles. "Terra and I both thought it was too swell to let go of, so we took over from there," Stevens recalls.
After their first show, themed "Takeover Makeover," both McVoy and Stevens set about making the Info Demos a staple on the Atlanta literary scene.
"In a nutshell, I'd define it as a creative lecture series," McVoy says, "but I also define it by what it's not. It's not a reading, it's not an open mic, it's not group therapy, it's not like an event at the Margaret Mitchell House. There's a playful element to it."
Besides being an opportunity for literary-minded Atlantans to show off, both McVoy and Stevens agree they want Info Demo to contribute to the Atlanta nightlife scene. "'There's never anything to do in Atlanta,' everyone always whines. We wanted to give people something to do that isn't stuffy, but also isn't sloppy," McVoy says.
This Thursday's Info Demo, themed "Viva Italia," promises to be as unpredictable as past events. "People came up with all kinds of stuff," McVoy says, adding that when they announced the theme and began looking for performers, she had hoped someone would offer up a cooking demonstration. "It would be great if someone wanted to do a presentation on how to make a cannoli," McVoy says, laughing. Even if Mario Batali doesn't show, Stevens promises that this Info Demo will stay true to "enhancing the nature of art. After all, it's all art and we should share it, for goodness sakes!"
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