By Ashley Brooks
I’ve been a student at UNG for longer than I’d care to admit, and every semester I see signs advertising the Chestatee Review’s Open Mic Night. I always think to myself, “Hey, that’s a good idea!” but I have never actually attended. That all changed this semester. Not only did I have to attend Open Mic Night for class credit, I impulsively volunteered to emcee the event. Signing up to emcee Open Mic Night seemed like a great idea at the time. I’m trying to overcome my natural shyness by doing things outside of my comfort zone, and Open Mic Night fits perfectly with this idea. Despite my good intentions, I began to have doubts as the hours neared closer and closer to showtime. “Do I have to be witty? Clever? I’m neither of those things! I’ve never even been to an Open Mic Night before! How can I possibly host it? Do I have to read a poem? Give a speech? I really should have thought this through.” I soon realized that my fears were intense but misleading, the way that most fears are. I arrived at the ballroom where the event was hosted at the same time as a huge, loud group of excited participants. We couldn’t go inside yet, so we all waited in the hall as more and more people showed up eager to showcase their many talents. Everyone was so kind and supportive of each other that I realized it didn’t matter how nervous I was– I’d entered a judgement-free zone. The participants of Open Mic Night were there to bear their soul and express themselves, and they did just that.
Open Mic Night started after a few words from Mr. Black about the upcoming Poedown and flash fiction contest. After that, it wasn’t a struggle to encourage the participants and performers to step up to the mic. In fact, it was more of a struggle to reign in the performers– everyone was having such a good time singing, dancing, reading their poems, and playing their instruments that many wanted to go up a second, or even a third time. As emcee, I only had to step up to the mic and call out the next names on the sign-up list if no one volunteered themselves to go next. I only had to call names a couple times, the rest of the time it seemed like people were rushing for the microphone all at once! There was even a few impromptu performances by reluctant audience members who felt so inspired by the creativity of their peers that they wanted to express themselves through art, too. It was a wonderful turnout, in terms of both audience members as well as performers. More people came than I had anticipated, and everyone had a great time. In the end, I believe everyone left satisfied, relieved, and with a little more bounce in their step. I for one cannot wait until the next opportunity like this… maybe I’ll even read some of my own work, that is, if I’m still feeling brave enough when the time comes.