On Wednesday, Nov. 4, the Southern Utah University English Department will be hosting a virtual open mic to offer students a chance to share their creative work. Faculty and members of the SUU community can join over Zoom to listen or share a piece of their own from the comfort of their room.
Performers have the opportunity to share original poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction pieces, even jokes and songs; everything is welcome and encouraged. They can also perform works by others that they have connected with.
An open mic is a live show where authors with any level of experience can perform their compositions for an audience in a low stakes environment. It can be an important opportunity for aspiring writers to see how their work is received and get feedback from a live audience.
And stage fright is more rare this semester at the open mic nights, mainly because there is no stage.
The recurring SUU open mic event was held over Zoom for the first time on Sept. 30, changing venue from the Gerald R. Sherratt Library on campus to accommodate COVID-19 social distancing guidelines. This didn’t stop students and faculty from sharing, and the switch from having a stage and a crowd to performing for a Zoom audience from the couch created a unique experience for all participants.
“Because all I had to do was speak quietly, and I had full attention, it was much easier to break through any stage fright,” said junior English major Ashley Galura. “If I had to stand up in front of people or get on a stage, I would be much more nervous and unable to share.”
Galura shared her own creative nonfiction essay entitled, “Driving Home With My Brother On a Thursday Afternoon.”
English Professor Chelsea Campbell hosts and moderates the events and has organized them at SUU for several years.
“You’ll see me get all nerdy and smiley at these because I genuinely love to watch students sharing their own work,” Campbell said at the last open mic event. “It just gets me going.
At the open mic on Sept. 30, Campbell shared “Good Bones” by Maggie Smith. This poem explores the idea that the world is not necessarily a morally good place, and that children need to be preserved from that corruption.
“After the presidential debate [on Sep. 29], I was feeling very overwhelmed…and I look to poetry often in those moments,” Campbell said. “This is a poem that seemed to fit the kind of mood that I was in.”
With only seven attendees, the gathering was more intimate than in-person open mic nights held during previous semesters, formerly attracting anywhere from 15-40 participants according to junior English major Ashlyn Draney, who participated in open mics in the past.
“The atmosphere was very relaxed and it was always a positive and encouraging environment,” Draney said.
Though this new open mic lacks the snack table and live audience of in-person open mics, presenters expressed that they were more at ease being able to share from the comfort of home as they unmuted and stepped up to the virtual mic.
“I loved the open environment of positivity, support and humility,” Galura said. “Everyone was welcome, everyone was listened to, everyone was encouraged. That’s the spirit of an open mic that I’ve always wanted.”
Galura mentioned that “spirit” included snaps of applause from the virtual attendees, and a chat room filled with appreciation for pieces shared and encouragement for those still nervous to present.
Anyone in the SUU community can join via Zoom for an hour of sharing creative work. Those who want to share can sign up virtually when joining the zoom call, or just tune in to listen.
Story By: Larissa Beatty
feature photo courtesy of unsplash.com