So I went to an Open Mic Shakespeare night this weekend, and am currently having a discussion with one of the organizers (who is aware that I’m posting this).
I mentioned to him that, from my position in the audience, it looked like a bunch of somewhat professional theatre folk putting on a show, with little room for anything that could be considered “open”. He countered that on the contrary, all his group had done was to schedule in a couple of anchoring acts throughout the night, and everything else that I’d seen was indeed people coming in on their own, often with pieces prepared but sometimes just reading from the notes provided.
Which brought up the question of how exactly might you want an open mic night to go, if you’re the theatre company putting it on? If you set the bar very high by having “real” (forgive the terminology, it’s not correct to say “professional” and I can’t think of a better word) actors do many of the selections then it will be entertaining for the audience, but then that’s not really open in the sense that people might have come expecting.
On the other hand if you truly just opened up the mic and had nothing but a stream of people who’d possibly never done it before, then you’d be open enough but people listening might find it the opposite of entertaining. (Just imagine an open mic night at the comedy club, and how bad a comedian can truly be, then apply that to Shakespeare).
My worst fear isn’t people who try, and aren’t good. My worst fear is people who *think* they are good, and aren’t. (I’m reminded of a line from the tv show Scrubs about karaoke where one character says, “I dunno, I’m pretty particular about my karaoke. I do these kick moves that I don’t think people really get? And sometimes I like to wear a cape.”)
What would you do? How do you strike the balance? I’ve only been to two of these events, but I’m an interesting case. I have some Shakespeare memorized, and if somebody stuck a microphone in my hand I’d give it a shot. I’d actually be happy and excited to give it a shot. But if you say “There’s a clipboard in the back, just sign your name” then I become glued to my seat, assuming that the list is already a mile long, signed by people who show up every Friday night to perform the same well-rehearsed bits that they do at every event.
So tell me, geeks. Have you been to these events? Do you like them? How did they go? Is there room for first timers? How could they be done better? What’s the real goal – to give amateurs a chance at the microphone that they might not normally get, or is it to entertain the audience? What happens when the two are mutually exclusive, how do you strike the balance?
Feel free to answer any combination of the above. :)