New Venue?

    Tales From The Field August 6th, 2012 By Mike Kane

    I was talking to a fellow storyteller this weekend who said she was thinking of launching a new open mic in Washington DC.

    Her reason: she felt like all of the open mics in DC are too high stakes.


    There’s no doubt that the SpeakeasyDC’s second Tuesday shows at Town are high stakes; I mean, you’re performing in front of 300 people.  300 very eager, encouraging, and enthusiastic people, but 300 people nonetheless.  And then there’s Story League’s open mic, which is a story contest.  By nature, that competitive element raises the stakes.  And then there’s a few other shows that are a mixture of art forms (slam poetry, music, stand-up, a random drag-queen who hurls insults in between Gloria Gaynor lip sync numbers).  And while they might not be as high stakes, they aren’t pure storytelling venues either.

    So, I asked my friend, how do you make it low stakes.  She said, first off, it has to be a true open mic.

    Also interesting.

    SEDC will be the first to tell you that their open mic is an open mic in the sense that anyone can sign up to perform. But you don’t roll into Town at a quarter to eight the night of and be like, “Wait, what’s the theme?  Oh, yeah, I might have something that fits that.”  You do that and you’ll be telling your story in the men’s room. No, you gotta sign up in advance, go through the rehearsal/coaching session, and then show up on performance night by six if you have any plans of finding a seat.

    I’ve only done one Story League show (I’m doing my second on Aug. 15 which, by the way, I’m completely ill prepared for), but that one feels a bit more pure in the sense of showing up the night of the show and getting on if you want to.  However, again, the second you step on the stage, you’re now a part of the competition, and if I’m also in that show, I’m secretly hoping you’ll bomb because I want to win.  At everything.  Always.  Not really the spirit of an open-mic.  Of course, that’s more about me than it is Story League, but you get what I’m saying.

    The other low stakes prerequisite was to put it in a small venue – preferably a bit of a seedy one. So what does that look like?  Big Hunt’s basement is pretty small and, uh, unwholesome.  Though the rat traps in that place might take attention away from the storytellers.  A coffee house?  Is that too cliché?  Probably.  I honestly think an outdoor venue would be cool… maybe a backyard with a keg during the summer.  Hot cocoa and a fire pit during the winter.  Would you show up to something like that?

    Would you tell a story at something like that?

    Get creative in the comments portion of this post.  Throw some ideas out there.  In front of how many people would you be comfortable telling a story?  Ever sat at a restaurant/bar/book store/opium den and thought, “This would be a cool performance space?”  Ever been sitting at a storytelling show and thought, “it would be cooler if they BLANK.”

    Basically, if you were setting up your own open mic, what would it look like?

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