The Smyrna Opera House hosted its first of four open mic nights last week. Ten locals tried out their material—both music and poetry—in an intimate bistro atmosphere.
Smyrna Opera House board member Barbara Bigelow said that she was pleased with the outcome of the historic venue's first foray into "open mic nights" last Thursday.
"I'm really happy with how it turned out," Bigelow said in the afterglow of the evening. "Of course, I'd like to see more people in the audience but I'm hoping that once people hear more about what the show is like, we'll see more people."
In order to create an atmosphere conducive to the casual creativity typical of an open mic night seen in a café or bar, event organizers transformed the B. Stimson Carrow Auditorium into an intimate setting, complete with nearly 10 white-cloth-covered bistro tables and a back-room bar continuously serving concessions.
Last week's showcase—the first of four scheduled for the current SOH season—featured 10 amateur performers who took turns testing out new material and revisiting old favorites.
"I'm so grateful that the Smyrna Opera House is giving local musicians and artists an opportunity to perform like this," said the night's first performer, Matt GcGuigan. "There aren't enough places for us to do this."
Originally, artists were going to be charged a $10 registration fee to participate but, in the week leading up to the event, the fee was waived.
"We went back and forth on charging a registration fee for participants," Bigelow explained. "On the one hand, a fee is motivation to show up for your commitment. On the other hand, we were only charging the audience $5 per person. Ultimately, charging the fee just didn't make sense."
Bigelow added that, going forward, artists will only need to register in advance to participate and no fee will be charged. But, potential audience members will not have to make up the difference in revenue either. Ticket prices will stay at $5
That $5 investment means possibly seeing nearly a dozen different performers, much like a variety show. Last week's showcase featured three types of entertainment: music, poetry and musical comedy. Of the musicians, all four played the guitar and three played original music. The poetry was even more diverse. A young mother told of an abusive past, another woman—using no notes— shared secrets of her life, emcee John Loftus painted a picture of plump perfection with one of his poems and a college student brought rhymes akin to a "spoken word" performance to the stage. The musical comedy act was more music than comedy but Bigelow said that she sees a lot of potential in the duo and hopes they return to hone their act, further solidifying the purpose of open mic night.
She would like to see even more diversity, though.
"I would like to see more dancers and all different kinds of instruments," Bigelow said. "Magicians, storytellers, vocal groups and skits would also be great. It doesn't have to be well-rehearsed. The point is to try stuff out, get feedback and see how the audience reacts."
However, it's also important to her, as a local resident and as an SOH board member, that people come to events like open mic night, making their voices heard about the types of entertainment they'd like to see.
"Open mic night is definitely for a mature audience. It's local people writing and singing about issues they see within the community they live in," Bigelow said. "But, we're open to all kinds of programming ideas. We'd love to do more with teens and young adults. We're set up to be a community resource and we'll entertain just about any idea that community members present to us."