On Thursday, January 9, the Rea and Laughlin Residence Hall Council (RHC) opened the doors of the Rea Coffeehouse to host Chatham’s first Open Mic Night of 2014.
Drawing a crowd of almost 50 people, the event’s audience completely filled the main room of the Coffeehouse–occupying the rows of chairs set up for the event, and spilling over onto the benches and couches around the perimeter of the room.
The basement venue, located beneath the Marjory Rea Residence Hall, was decorated with string lights, which complemented the already artistic vibe of the paint spattered and graffiti covered walls of the coffeehouse.
Because the Coffeehouse is relatively unknown–even among the Chatham Community–one of the factors in choosing this venue was to simply “let people know it’s down here”, said Abigail Beckwith, first year member of the Rea and Laughlin RHC, and co-organizer of the event, “It’s so beautiful”, she continued, “and was so popular in the past.”
Beckwith went on to explain that the location was also chosen, in part, to raise support for the fundraising efforts of the Chatham class of 2014, who wish to to reopen the venue as their senior gift.
Around eight o’clock, the Open Mic Night officially began with several acts from talented Chatham students. The performances ranged from poetry by sophomore Melissa Garrett, to singing and ukulele playing by sophomore Natalie Beck, and everything in between.
Students, encouraged by their peers, took the stage to play the violin, sing, and read short stories, all of which were met by passionate cheers from their classmates, creating a collaborative and supportive atmosphere that encouraged people throughout the evening to venture up to the microphone.
As Tahmina Tursonzadah–another first year member of the Rea and Laughlin RHC, and co-organizer of the event–said, this was “a good event to get the semester started”. She went on to say that it gave the students an opportunity to “take some weight off their shoulders and take some time to relax.”
As the evening progressed, the first portion of the show closed with two selections of poetry written by the senior class. Initially appearing heartfelt, the poems ended comically in pleas for the audience to donate to the senior gift funds, eliciting laughter from the audience.
Transitioning to the second portion of the show, Tursonzadah took the stage to welcome local band “Restricted Highways”–based out of Shaler Township–to the stage. She later explained that the band was made up of people with whom she went to high school.
Among the various covers that the band performed, including hits by bands such as My Chemical Romance and The Killers, they also performed several original songs, among which was a poignant ballad inspired by the passing of the lead singer’s father.
Throughout their set, the group was surprisingly adept at interacting with the audience, making small talk and not being afraid to laugh at themselves when things went wrong. They received appreciative rounds of applause from the crowd, and even developed a new fan base as a few Chatham students took the floor to dance and sing along with them.
Although the audience slowly dwindled throughout the evening–understandable given that it was a school night–there was a small crowd that stayed until the end, among whom were two gentlemen from University of Pittsburgh, who heard about the event through a mutual friend.
Commenting on the success of the event, Tursonzadah said, “The fact that [Chatham] is a women’s college, people think that it’s closed off or private. Chatham is a unique school, and this aspect of the University can attract other people.”