BEST OPEN-MIC NIGHT - 2000
After another year of bringing the best in experimental dance, music, theater, and what-have-you to the Southern Theater in Minneapolis, this perennial favorite again wins the golden mic award. Hosted by charming chanteuse and ubiquitous local-arts activist Leslie Ball, Balls gives five to seven minutes of stage time to anyone with something to say, play, express, show, or prove. Acts over the past nine years have ranged from 13-year-old standup comics and semi-nude pyrotechnics experts to lovesick street musicians and grown men possessed by the spirits of talking dogs. Balls' right to occupy the open-mic category has been hotly debated, as Leslie Ball requires performers to have seen at least one performance in its entirety, to sign up prior to the start of the show, and to be completely sober. Although this does eliminate the drunken, embarrassing Gong Show element common to many open mics, these parameters in no way detract from the show's spontaneity. As Ball herself earnestly proclaims while jumping up and down and passing out Hershey's Kisses to the audience, "I'm so excited! Anything can happen here!" Ball also promotes excellence in the open-mic field by providing performers with actual constructive feedback; not only does she invite both viewers and performers down to Pizza Lucé for a postshow gabfest, she even offers to pick up the tab for one randomly selected spectator. So, no: Balls is not "open" in the sense that any inebriate can wander onstage and recite limericks to the tune of his buddy's flatulence. The openness here lies in the minds of the performers and the heart of the hostess, as they continue to provide Twin Citians with delightfully unpredictable midnight entertainment.