The rest are either grudging-but-supportive boyfriends/girlfriends/roommates, college freshmen assigned to write about a local “arts experience,” people who just came for a coffee/beer/study session and weren’t expecting a show, and (for places open to those under 18) the occasional wincingly proud mom.
Seriously, in 5 years of open mics, only at the Winston-Salem Shuffle have I seen what I’d call true audience—people who don’t perform and don’t personally know anyone on the list; they just wanna hear some local talent a given night. Needless to say, I love them. We all do.
You might be wondering what to expect or you might be wondering what’s expected of you. Many a blog post has been written about open mic etiquette for audience members—do this, don’t do that. Tiresome stuff.
So instead, a few thoughts from this performer’s perspective:
- Thank you.
- Thank you for filling the room. For making noise, that social thrum of anticipation. For being the ears that make this so much better than reciting my poems to the cats.
- Thank you for supporting your sister, lover, roommate, roommate’s brother’s lover—whoever you’re here for.
- Thank you for your feedback, whatever form it takes. See, we use you as part of our writing process. If we see your listening-face, if you’re clapping, snapping, or hooting, we know we got something right. If you’re checking your phone or the applause is too polite, we have more work to do.
- Thank you for taking video/pics and tagging the event on whatever social platform. I promise, the event organizers appreciate your help keeping the energy going.
- Thank you for saying something as we walk off the stage. The long steps back to our chairs are better if we get eye contact and hear someone say, “Nice job.”
- Thank you for staying as long as you can. Poetry open mics are almost always on a weeknight and often run late. Those of us who signed up on the bottom half of the list are especially grateful when you stick around.
- Thank you for saying something after the show was over, especially if it was specific. “Loved your poem about the diner waitress,” “the rhyming one was my favorite,” “I had a dog like that once.” Anything to let us know we made a connection.
- Thank you.
- Did I say thank you?
For those in the audience who wanted to perform but didn’t dare get up on stage this time, a special list next week…