Express yourself here

Open-mic events provide stage for singers, musicians, spoken-word artists

Open-mic events provide stage for singers, musicians, spoken-word artists

June 14, 2005|by KRISTIN WILSON

HALFWAY - Performance-minded teens in the Tri-State area have a choose-your-own-adventure opportunity springing up in their backyards.

Through the summer months theater professionals will be working with teens to create a Hagerstown organization called YET - Youth Expressions Theatre - that will be mostly directed by the teens' own initiatives.

Niki Perini, artistic director of the group, says YET will be a stimulating experience for area teens on several levels.

Through events and workshops, YET will create performance opportunities for young people, but those involved in the group also hope to create an organization to teach the millennial generation about accountability to themselves and to others.

"The performance element - that's great, but we are giving them opportunities within boundaries of integrity," she says. "We've been told that our millennials are apathetic and what we're trying to do with YET is break out of the apathy."


Organizers of YET, a byproduct of Authentic Community Theatre (ACT) in Hagerstown, are starting to reach out to talented young people to be the founding members of their new group.

One of the ways they have created a buzz about their program is through a series of public open-mic nights.

Open spaces

On Friday night, the Valley Mall food court buzzed with the sounds of karaoke performances, original guitar music and ballads from "The Phantom of the Opera."

Alex Knepper, 15, a student at North Hagerstown High School, used the event to share his recently discovered tenor voice.

"Usually you are confined to your living room when you are singing," says Knepper, who was introduced to the theater world a month ago when he saw his first Broadway play. Performing live "you get to show people what you've been working on and what you've accomplished," he says.

But YET isn't the only entity creating performance space for young people, teens say.

More opportunity

Port City Java at Long Meadow Shopping Center kicked off an open-mic night in November. On Thursday nights, the caf opens its doors to performers of all ages, but it has been especially popular among teens, says coffee shop employee Amy Gloss, 19.

"They really like it," she says. "It's something that the kids can get out and perform in front of their friends. We've been getting some pretty good feedback."

Gloss, a recent graduate of Chambersburg Area Senior High School, says she was always connected with the music scene, but she remembers there were few public performance opportunities for young people interested in the performing arts.

Most opportunities circled around school events or church productions, she remembers. "There weren't a lot of places you could go and play outside of school."

Meet the audience

James Attavian and Brad Worthington, both 18 and recent graduates of North Hagerstown High School, have taken public performances one step further.

The duo learned to play guitar together in high school and started writing their own music and lyrics. When teen-oriented open-mic opportunities started popping up this past year, they brought their originally produced CDs along to sell to people who liked their music.

The two, known to their fans as Brad and James, say it's wonderful to have an outlet for their musicianship.

"We don't like just sitting around our houses playing," says Worthington. "We want people to hear us." And through continually being out in the community, people are starting to recognize them, they say.

Perhaps more importantly, public support for musical expression gives some teens a chance to really find themselves, says JenniLynn Hughes, 19, of Hagerstown. The Smithsburg High School graduate helped launch YET.

"The arts give kids more of a chance to be individuals and to find their own talents," she says. "You're not really competing as much as you are shining in your own way."

"When I play I feel like I'm being the real me," Attavian says. "People can see a side of me they might not otherwise see."

Performance opportunities

Teens interested in finding out more about Youth Expressions Theatre (YET) can call Niki Perini at 301-790-7903 or e-mail her at The YET studio is at 19619 Glen Erin Drive, north of Hagerstown.

Other performance and theater opportunities include:

ยท Authentic Community Theatre's Summer Institute for the Arts, open to children ages 9 to 13. There is a teen ensemble as part of the summer institute for teens ages 14 to 18. Anyone older than 18 and interested in participating can apply for an internship. The institute will run from Aug. 1 to Aug. 14, culminating with a performance during Augustoberfest, the weekend of Aug. 13.

Participants will be exposed to vocal and instrumental music, creative movement, yoga, creative dramatics and other visual arts. Campers will also produce a show called "It's Grimm in Hagers-town," based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. Tuition is $250. For more information or for a registration form, e-mail or call 301-790-7903.

The Herald-Mail Articles