An open mic is an amazingly democratic phenomenon, if also an occasionally painful one for audience and performer alike. Since 1991, singer-songwriter Leslie Ball has cleared the Southern stage for the performance efforts of the bold and adventuresome. Newcomers to this midnight Saturday gathering immediately feel the winning rapport among host, audience, and performers. While you will hear mutterings about "newbies," you need not worry about having to do a virgin dance as at The Rocky Horror Picture Show. You also won't have to watch participants being heckled mercilessly as in It's Showtime at the Apollo. Amid the thumping bumper music and the acts--which include dance, poetry, comedy, song, and more--Ball works the room like a supportive scout leader. Her warmth blankets the cavernous stage as she makes witty asides and passes out chocolates to the audience. Another appeal of Balls is the diversity of performers, some semi-regulars and others new. A recent evening featured a wiry, pliant dancer, a humorous poetry reading from the perspective of Pretty Boy Floyd, a juggling unicyclist, an amusing storyteller, and a high school duo singing a cappella about sexually transmitted diseases. With mixes like that, Ball's gracious hosting, and the timeworn grandeur of the Southern stage, you can't go wrong--especially not for a mere five bucks.


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