Under St. Mark’s

Open Mic Tuesday

I love this place. I wish I was there right now, or at least every Tuesday night. And to think I stumbled upon this place by accident. Wait, that’s not exactly right. I knew that Under St. Mark’s existed. It was listed as the venue for Frigid New York, a storytelling theater series that takes place in February. I wanted to attend some of those events, but wasn’t able to. One night in March I wanted to get a handle on the location so I walked in that direction. The “Open Mic” sign was a complete surprise. I did not go in that night, but I did later. While sitting in the theater the third time I thought to myself, “I think I’m addicted to this place.” One night some performers referred to the place as their church. I nod. I’m a convert.

So far, I’ve not been there at the beginning of the night, because I have been in classes until 10 PM. The Open Mic goes on well past 2 AM and I have stayed until the end. By that time I have been awake for close to twenty-four hours. I am bleary-eyed and exhausted by then, but have thoroughly enjoyed the time I’ve spent there.

The Tuesday night Open Mic at Under St. Mark’s is a variety show. There are regulars and first-timers. There are people who return after their travels away from New York. There are singer-songwriters; there are poets, comedians, magicians, storytellers, playwrights, and performance artists who defy categorization. Nick, at the door, lets his PanteneĀ® hair down and does standup at around midnight. There might be electric guitars, acoustic guitars, keyboards, electronic instruments, cellos, or ukeleles – Jackson is a regular who sings and plays a ukelele.

Today I’m going to try to convince you that what the world needs now is ukelele. You know, this is the underdog of all instruments. And I’ve always believed that, you know, it’s the instrument of peace because if everyone played the ukelele, the world would be a much happier place. – Jake Shimabukuro, TED Talk, 2011

There is a house band: Michael, a guitar hero of the real kind; Henry, who does his own compositions plus Dylan covers (Bob himself should come and see Henry); and Dan, the enthusiastic host/MC who improvs on keyboard. And they accompany some performers. There is a real live tech person on board too, which you don’t find at most open mics.

I am fascinated watching Dan when he is playing keyboard, seeing how he seems to know just what to play in the moment. Why is this fascinating to me – I can’t exactly explain..

Add to all of the above, Under St. Mark’s has heart.

I wonder if the name, Under St. Mark’s was coined after the yards at nearby St. Marks Church under which both the famous and infamous are entombed.

Under St. Marks 94 St. Mark’s Place, NYC

Under St. Marks Theater in the East Village with Tuesday Open Mic marquee

Paul Lombard on stage Under St. Marks

Later, when my other obligations were over, I did make it to the open mic to preform at Under St. Mark’s. I arrived early and while waiting for the doors to open a small gathering, not quite a line, formed. I was happy to meet and chat with Paul Lombard during that time. I enjoyed talking with Paul. I took this photo when he performed that night. People do take photos and some record their performances. The story I performed is online here.

Under St. Mark’s Theater - day time marquee