• J.W. Basilo and Dan Sullivan of the Speak’Easy Ensemble

Chicago Slam Works is crossing borders with a new bilingual show, “In Any Tongue” (Sat 7/21, 8 PM, Vittum Theatre, 1012 N. Noble, chicagoslamworks.com). Three slam poetry teams, two German and one American, will perform together simultaneously in German and English. The concept originated last year during CSW’s celebration of slam poetry’s 25th birthday, when Chicago’s Speak’Easy Ensemble performed a short set with Frankfurt’s Word Alert.

Speak’Easy will be slamming again at this weekend’s 90-minute event, along with the first- and second-place winners of last year’s German national slam championship, Team Totale Zerstorung and Team Allen Earnstyzz. They’ll be performing the German teams’ poems for the most part, both in the original and in translation. There’s also a multimedia component: clips from a behind-the-scenes documentary will play between the poems. CSW creative director J.W. Basilo and Allen Earnstyzz member Tes Fu talked about the event and the international future they see for the slam poetry movement.

Sharon Lurye: How does it all work exactly?

J.W. Basilo: The pieces are going to be presented as multivoice, multilingual poems all at once. So it’s a really big undertaking—not only to get effect and meaning, but also to make the words really pop and make both poems work in both languages at the same time. We’re working really hard so that the words and the language weave in and out of each other, to make it as engaging as possible for the audience.