Penny’s Open Mic has more in common with an afterschool club than theater, and this is its endearing strength. Rather than walking into a quiet space with a quiet stage and whispered conversations from the audience, Penny’s crowd grab their Budweisers, mingle and laugh uproariously. They tease each other, discuss the week’s events and anticipate the evening’s performances. Observant audience members will quickly realize they’ve been welcomed into a community of underground performers and personalities, with Penny Pollak herself as their point of orbit.
A fit woman with bushy hair and a lighter in her sock who steps halfway onto the base of the mic stand with her leather boots as she talks to the audience, Penny is both the organizer and MC. Before the show starts, she promotes the productions her frequent artists are involved in (ranging from other events at UNDER St. Marks to theater in Paris) and she sincerely praises each artist after their performance. While it’s called an open mic, the talented attendees at Penny’s perform everything from comedy and live music to faux educational seminar and beat generation-inspired dialogue poetry laced with mini-saxophone and avant garde dance.
The most astonishing feature of Penny’s Open Mic is the equal emotional investment by the audience. Like an afterschool club, a group of talented kids meeting once a week to pursue a common goal, everybody in attendance was rooting for the event to succeed. The audience is filled with people who are themselves going to be performing soon, if they hadn’t already, and this mutually assured affirmation gives each entertainer an undeniable edge and energy. Penny’s Open Mic is not the success of any individual performance but the experience of the community that supports them.
Written by Shane Reader, Promotional Writer at FABnyc