A Space for Spontaneity

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// Alexander Caron

Mark Fedronic ’15 and Hanoi Hantrakul ’15 shuffled onto the stage in the Crescent Underground Theater, wearing pajama pants and slippers. Fredonic admitted he’d just been studying in the Morse library — Hantrakul had texted him a few minutes ago, asking if he’d perform in the Crescent. They sat down. Hantrakul settled around his guitar, while Fedronic adjusted the microphone. They asked for some suggestions: “Can we have a location, a person and an activity?”

And so they serenaded the pope, recalling his adventures skinny-dipping on Mars.

This was one of many quirky, impromptu performances at the inaugural Sunken Sounds Open Mic. A motley crew gathered in the Ezra Stiles and Morse College basement last Wednesday night — girls in work-out clothes, boys pre-gaming Toad’s and, of course, library dwellers. These 20 students put Yale on hold for two hours to perform and watch their peers perform. Some sang, others read poetry. Some improvised, others played covers. And after every performance, however brief and blushing, the small theater echoed with hoots and applause. Sunken Sounds founder Lex Caron ’13 called it “a different kind of vibe than what I think people are used to seeing.”

Before the show, Caron and his co-organizer Sarah Solovay ’16 described the “fireball option.” A bottle of whiskey sat on the piano, and a few performers took swigs to steady their nerves. One pianist sipped as he played, to the crowd’s amusement.

Of course, open mics are a sort of creative safety valve, an escape from suddenly fraught or unfulfilling performance spaces. Sunken Sounds was not a concert, a reading, or a play, but rather a reaction to Yale’s sometimes stifling performance culture.

As Caron put it, he and his friends felt like they “didn’t have a space where [they] could perform on [their] own terms.” Sunken Sounds offers that missing space, where the stakes are low and the spirits high. “Where else on campus can you go to try something out in front of people who are also trying things out?”

Judging by the impressive turn-out, many share Caron’s feelings. “I only personally knew about 5 people who came, which means that the rest…must have been responding to the flyers or to the Facebook announcements or emailings,” he admitted happily. Students showed up in pairs, trios and gaggles. Even the more hesitant kids, kids who came alone and looked a little lost, soon leaned back in their seats. The crowd was so relaxed it was almost catatonic — for two hours, everyone in the Crescent was happy. Everyone became friends, eager to discover secret, crazy talents. A group of sophomores mumbled the lyrics to “Go Down on You” by the Memories. Applause. Another student read confessional poetry. Applause. A third belted out a Russian folk song. Applause.

Caron and Salovay were ecstatic. “It showed us that other people on campus are thirsty for a place like this,” Caron said.

Caron and Solovay plan to host a Sunken Sounds Open Mic once every three weeks. While Caron hopes to spread the word and gain a following, he wants more than a full house. He wants inexperienced performers to stop by. Sunken Sounds aims to be a safe, creative space, a space apart from the University’s hectic, competitive arts scene. Of course, experienced artists are also welcome. Anyone is welcome. “It’s a movement!” said Caron.

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