When my friend, Sophie Yaeger, first told me about this exciting new venue,
The Cafe at Broadway, I was thrilled. I was excited for Sophie and her future.
|The Cafe at Broadway|
917 287 2392
I went to see the new space and saw the potential, possibilities and, above all, Sophie's passion for the place. Then she asked me to be the hostess for their new Monday Broadway style open mic. I was flattered, excited and absolutely terrified!
I saw the empty room. It's a lovely room, as you can see. I saw the blank canvas. And, of course (as you can tell from my previous blogs) I immediately starting quoting Sondheim. White: a blank page or canvas. His favorite - so many possibilities.*
|The Cafe at Broadway|
917 287 2392
I don't need a lot,
Only what I got,
Plus a tube of greasepaint and a follow-spot!^
But, wait. I DO need a lot! A script, a director, homework, a costume, rehearsal. Sophie wanted me to be me. And that's the most terrifying thing of all. No rehearsal. No plan. No idea who would be in the audience. No idea what they would sing. No idea why Sophie asked me.
People laughed at my insecurity: "But you're so good at stuff like this.". Really? How do you know? I don't. So I realised that I would have to fall back on the lifetime of training I had being part of the McKie family. I come from a family of talkers. Well, my father does not talk much when my mother is around (as you can read here) but he is more than capable (as you can hear here).
Public speaking, debating, after-dinner speaking, reciting poetry, singing parodies, performing at parties were all part of normal life as I was growing up. Both my parents are teachers and I was (and still am, but not full time) a teacher. It is something in one's soul. My sister is a teacher too. A brilliant one. One brother is a lawyer and the other two are writers. All five of us learned poetry and had to make speeches in public. It was the norm in our education. My middle brother, Johnnie, is the quietest of us all and the only one out of the five of us who did not debate at University. He was, and is, however, the great deliverer of one-liners and comebacks that will have everyone laughing. That's a gift. And he proved he can make a magnificent speech (as best man at my eldest brother's wedding and as groom, obviously, at his own). My natural instinct and familial and cultural training is to insult the crowd. In Scotland, that's a compliment. But I feared this was not going to be my friend. I also feared that nature would kick in and that is what I would do. I did, of course. Sorry, Vanessa Spica!
|Photo by Daniel Yaeger|
Hello, everybody! My name is Polly.
Let me entertain you,
Let me make you smile.
Let me do a few tricks,
Some old and then some new tricks,
I'm very versatile!+
|Singing a little Gilbert and Sullivan parody |
for our parents' Ruby Anniversary
I started to realise that I did have the experience and years of training. I had done the homework. What is hosting? I have been thinking and realise it is not really very different from all the other things that are second nature to me.
Banter (the McKie family), being able to hurl insults and take the heckling in return (again, the McKie family),
|Singing for our father's 70th birthday party |
(and encouraging the next generation along the way).
(yet again, the McKie family) making the audience feel loved, wanted, amused and itching to get up and show their stuff (just what I want to do for my classes when I teach) and winging it (well, that's the story of my life).
But let me make it clear, that is not enough. This is the venue that helped me to be myself and relax enough to do my job. Well, to be honest, I was never relaxed and was a nervous wreck throughout, but the crowd (small though it was) did not see that. The Cafe at Broadway has devised the most welcoming open mic in the city. There is NO COVER charge and not only is there no minimum, they even have half price drinks all night for the open mic on Mondays! They have lighting, sound, a glorious grand piano and cheap booze! What's not to love. The people who were there were wonderful. I am grateful to all of them. It is a warm, friendly, supportive place. Come and sing or listen or drink or laugh or clap or meet new people or, do what I plan to do: all of it! See you on Monday.
And if you're real good,
I'll make you feel good ---
I want your spirits to climb.
So let me entertain you,
And we'll have a real good time,
We'll have a real good time!+
* "Sunday in the Park with George" by Stephen Sondheim
^ "Broadway Baby" from Follies by Stephen Sondheim
+ "Baby June and Her Newsboys" from Gypsy: Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim