As the Spring semester passed its midpoint, the Writing Arts internship planned to have an open mic event where students could attend via Zoom to read or perform their poems, jokes, or their stand-up comedy. Hosted by the energetic Emily Nolan, the event was in full swing on Thursday, April 1st where April Fools Day was celebrated.
Nolan expressed her interest in this event, as it was her idea, as a way to showcase how people could still perform amid the global pandemic. She was adamant in including some comedy in the event due to how dark and bleak the past year has been. “I think everyone would benefit from a good laugh,” she said, explaining why she wanted to host and plan this event.
The process to plan the Laugh or Cry: Open Mic Competition was a bit messy, Nolan confessed. But it was all about brainstorming, getting approved by the department chair, Dr. Kopp, finding the judges and hoping the Improfs would attend and/or co-sponsor the event, making the sign-up forms, and advertising over social media and during class time. Overall, while Nolan believed the process was all over the place, it’s clear that she had a plan before this event could be brought to life.
To find judges, Nolan expressed that she found Aaron Lee’s contact information through Prof Link. Aaron Lee is a part of the Rowan Improfs, an improv comedy group, at Rowan University. She later reached out to see if he was interested in the event, and when he said yes, they spoke through Zoom to talk about the details of the event. Lee also answered some questions and said that they were more than happy to help out with the event because they cared about expression, so of course they were going to support. In the end, Lee was able to judge.
The day of the event came along, and Nolan hosted with great enthusiasm. She went on to introduce the events’ judges, two interns from the Writing Arts department for the poetry section: Diana DeSimine and Anngelie Perez (me), and Aaron Lee and Marissa Stanko for the comedy section. There were a handful of performers for both comedy and poetry, which included Heather Houpt, Michelle Seitz, Laini Parejo, and Stephen Cobb for poetry, and Chris Miller, Maureen Nolan, and Martin Mgidi for comedy. However, there was also a good turnout for audience members just sitting in to enjoy the event.
Performer Heather Houpt went on first, reading a four poem sample of a poetry collection titled “I Could Write It Better Than You Ever Felt It.” She also said that she wanted the opportunity to share her poetry. “Until now it has been a more private thing since I don’t have many opportunities to perform my poetry in a global pandemic and since I tend to write poetry for the ear, it was my belief that it needed to be heard to be experienced effectively.”
Attendee Teddy Markou also spoke of the event, saying they enjoyed the event more than they expected. They talked about how much they laughed and how they enjoyed even the “cry” moments. Finally, Markou said, “Very talented people came to this event and I hope I get the chance to attend one in the future!”
The event went on without a hitch, with everyone excited to see Rowan students perform their poetry and comedy. The winners of Laugh or Cry Open Mic competition were Stephen Cobb for poetry and Chris Miller for comedy. Cobb gave an astounding performance of his poem “European Nooses in the Classrooms” which responded to a student asking him if they could use the word ‘ain’t’ in their paper. Find a performance of his poem here! On the other hand, Miller cracked jokes that had the entire Zoom call laughing.
Many people came to support one another and share a great laugh and a love for poetry. Overall, the Laugh or Cry Open Mic event was a great success!