Lawn Gnome Publishing started PEP Rally — a variety show with a topic that changes weekly — after the cancellation of the weekly slam poetry event in December, and the show has come to have a voice and an audience of its own.
“PEP” stands for “Phoenix Educational Programming.” The event aims to give audiences educational lessons mixed with fun performances.
“Everything has a central theme,” co-host Hattie Hayes said. “This is a show that targets an adult audience, so we have everything from stand up comedy to music to academic lectures to science experiments. We encapsulate a lot of the academic process that you get from educational programming but also the different emotional aspects as well.”
Although Lawn Gnome is excited for change, transitions take time evolve. Each week the audience varies.
“It was originally people who knew about the poetry slam and (were) sad to see it go but kinda wanted to see how it was changing,” employee Nicole Lough said. “So it was definitely that crowd at first. And then as more and more artists and academics started getting involved we have seen a far larger college crowd.”
Along with the new crowds there have been changes to these performances as well. PEP Rally shows have a less competitive vibe than the poetry slams did, and they are aimed at a new crowd. Hosts Hattie Hayes and Matthew Storrs keep the show going with witty and sarcastic jokes and anecdotes.
“Sometimes with Hattie it’s us bantering, finding out more about one another and more about the audience,” Storrs said. “Also then keeping the show moving, but it can also get derailed and go off the hinges and be unbelievably funny.”
The show has a different theme each week, going in alphabetical order. The first night was centered around Ants and has since included themes such as Dinosaurs, Jail and Kitchen.
“Dinosaurs was pretty spectacular,” Lough said. “We have this one artist called Dino Love and he just did hilarious songs in the mind and personality of dinosaurs and it was really hilarious. I’m really excited for Neon as well.”
Andy Warpigs is a regular performer who plays his original folk-punk songs on ukulele.
“This is a really good place to get your start performing, it’s a really supportive community,” Warpigs said. “Art is completely subjective that I think most of the people in this community understand, so it’s a pretty nurturing environment for someone who wants to try their hand at any kind of art.”
Serene Dominic, another performer known as the character the Human Torch, said he has enjoyed the opportunity to share his knowledge in front of new audiences.
“I sings songs and make people feel good,” Dominic said. “Last week was Kitchen, so I tailored a song I had already written to fit the theme of the week. And sometimes I look back and go, ‘Wow, that went over pretty good.’”
PEP Rally continues to evolve with every performance. Lawn Gnome encourages everyone to try out the scene and get a taste of something different from the norm.
“If there’s a time to spend two hours relaxing and really just enjoying the night it’s here at Lawn Gnome,” Lough said.
The upcoming themes for April’s PEP Rallies include Pluto, Queen and Radio. Shows are 8-10 p.m. every Thursday and cost $5.
Editor’s note: Sen. Hattie Hayes is a contributing reporter for the Downtown Devil. She was not involved in the reporting or writing of this article.
Corrections: March 23, 2015: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated what “PEP” stands for. It is Phoenix Educational Programming, not Program.
A previous version of this article misquoted co-host Hattie Hayes. The quote did not alter the meaning of Hayes’s quote. It has been updated to reflect the words Hayes actually said.
A previous version of this article misstated the theme of the first show. It was Ants, not Aunts.
A previous version of this article misstated the month when the show began. It was December, not January.
Contact the reporter at Bryanna.Mundy@asu.edu