A few years ago, I would not have been caught dead an open mic night, it was just not a place where authors – especially New York Times Bestselling authors- needed to go or wanted to go. It was a place for wannabes and amateurs. I felt snobbish about open mike nights. My friend Scott Carrino, who co-owns the Round House Cafe with his wife Lisa, started open mike nights a year ago at his cafe, and Maria and I started going, she loved the idea, I was reluctant. I never expected to perform there. People read poetry, played music, sang songs. I liked it, there was a lot of energy there, but I never saw myself performing there.
Then one night I decided to read a poem, and then another. I loved some of the music, it was sometimes erratic, sometimes wonderful. People read poetry that I thought was impressive, first-class. Sometimes high school kids showed up giggling. My friend Scott can be emotional about some things, but has a sort of Zen attitude about Open Mike night, singer Deena Chappell hosts the event, people who want to perform put their names on a sign-up sheet. Sometimes it is a bit lonely up there for Deena.
But I love to go, I go almost every time it happens, usually once a month.
Tonight, I stopped by to have a sandwich and listen to some of the music, Maria was off at yoga class. I meant to leave right away, I had a lot of work to do. It was a bit tense at first, few people showed up and nobody signed up to perform. Deena was nervous, she faced singing for two hours by herself. She did three songs, talked Scott into singing three songs, we all thought the evening would turn into a fiasco. But then, something magical happened, something unique to my wonderful small town.
We all realized at the same time that we had to help Deena and Scott. We all headed for home to get our stuff and contribute. Scott never asked us to, he never does, he just cooks in the kitchen and comes out and beams, he trusts it will work out. It did.
A man went home to get his poems, another went home to get his guitar, I ran home to get my play, and in a few minutes, the sign-up sheet was full and the evening flipped, and it had happened spontaneously. The poetry was terrific, the music was beautiful, I read two scenes from my play, "The Last Day At Maple View Farm." I dragooned Deena and Scott into reading some of the parts in the play – she did the farmer's wife, Scott read the lines from his so, I read the farmer's part.
It was exciting for me, I got to hear the words spoken out loud for the first time, and to watch the reaction on people's faces. They were into it, the words sounded right, Deena and Scott did a good job. The evening had flipped in an almost magical way, a spontaneous way, a small town and community way. "This is amazing," said one man as we left, "it started out as a catastrophe and then everybody ran home and got their stuff and it turned into one of the best open mike nights ever. I love this town."
Me too, I love living in this small town, there is real connection here, it is so special in such a disconnected world. Scott and Lisa have created the kind of place they always dreamed of creating, a place of connection and community as well as a place to get good food. I loved reading my play, it really came alive to me tonight. I'm getting excited about it.