It’s always a surprise to me that many writers won’t read their work in public. I think one of the big kicks of being a writer is getting to see first hand how your audience responds to your work.
Stories in the North puts on Open Mike nights from time to time, mainly as awareness-raising events. We have twenty spots for writers to strut their stuff, and probably about seventy-five seats for people to come and listen. In the beginning it was harder to find people who would come out and read. Quite a few of the spots on the first Open Mike were filled by members of the Stories in the North board (many of us are writers), just to ensure a good show.
Last night, probably four years after our first Open Mike, most of the spots were filled by people who were not on the board. Angie Gallop and I were the only Stories in the North members to perform. Both of us love attention and applause, and we got it in spades last night, as did every other entrant.
I know that performance isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time. Some of the people who got up to read last night were nervous about it. Some kept their focus on the page and weren’t able to engage the audience. Never mind – they all got up there and were audible and, may I say, well-received. The quality of the work was excellent; amateur or not, every one of the entrants had obviously taken time to polish and rehearse their pieces.
It’s the audience, however, who makes or breaks an event like this. The one last night, like every other Open Mike audience we’ve had, was attentive, appreciative and generous with applause and praise. More than a few people made a point of telling me how much they enjoyed my pieces, and I made sure to tell others the same about their work.
It’s true that the audience feeds the performers. If people are chatting while you’re reciting your opus, you know you’ve been slighted. If, on the other hand, they listen, and laugh or gasp where you intended, then you get that psychic thrill that tells you you’ve made a real connection, and have touched people’s hearts, or funnybones.
I hadn’t done an Open Mike for over a year. It was incredibly sustaining and a great deal of fun. I think I’m going to have to do this more often.