Jump Around: Trampoline Hall at the Garrison

Running continuously since 2001, Trampoline Hall has become Toronto’s foremost literary salon-cum-lecture series, selling out whatever local dive bar in which it chooses to reside. Created by novelist Sheila Heti and hosted by teacher, artist, and all-around “Toronto personality” Misha Glouberman, its format is deceptively straightforward: participants give lectures on subjects which they’re not professionally equipped to discuss, followed by an in-depth question and answer period with the audience.

Enlisting laypersons may seem like a recipe for second-hand embarrassment, but it’s the speakers’ inexperience that makes the series so enduringly popular. Evenings spent at Trampoline Hall are always educational, albeit not always on the subjects explicitly being presented. As Heti describes, “It’s theatre. When you’re outside your usual area you’re more nervous, you reveal yourself more. I think of it as a character study.”

Twelve years is a long time for the attention span of a city like Toronto, but the series stays fresh by constantly adding new energy to an old format. Every month, a new curator selects the three speakers, as well as various artists to create the event’s backdrop and tickets. Amy Langstaff held the curatorial reigns for the March 4th edition, and in turn presented us with Christina Bagatavicius’ relentless quest for perfection in “Hoarding the Best: Life as a Maximizer,” psychiatrist David Jamieson’s thoughts on marriage in “Meta-Cognitive Mismatch and Relationship Strife,” and Sheila Murray reading “Brown’s Town, my Dad’s Town,” an essay that detailed her father’s philanthropic legacy in an impoverished Jamaican community.

With admission to Trampoline Hall comes acceptance into what feels like a special clubhouse for the cool kids, one where the general atmosphere can best be described as “irreverent reverence.” Most of the audience was clearly composed of long-time attendees, who waited in gleeful anticipation for a verbal beatdown from the acerbic and whip-smart Glouberman. And as an exercise in marketing, Trampoline Hall is unparalleled. Audience members are able to keep their personalised entry tickets, which have in previous sessions been composed of Band-Aids, five dollar bills, bricks, and most memorably, glass necklaces featuring s grain of rice etched with the word TRAMP. It’s this innovative approach to commodifying the Trampoline Hall experience that has led to its coverage in the Globe and Mail, the New Yorker and the Village Voice, as well as the series’ successful ten-city US tour. In the age of mechanical reproduction, customised souvenirs are king.

Heti and Glouberman definitely recognise the value to be found in the rapt congregation that fills the fold-up chairs of Trampoline Hall each month: they used the series to release their quasi self-help book The Chairs Are Where the People Go in 2011. So while presenting at the event may not be a solo book launch, for a burgeoning Toronto writer, Trampoline Hall remains a coveted springboard into the clubhouses of the literary elite.

Photo by laurent_croquemonsieur on flick

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