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‘R2: The Rice Review’ to host open mic

Vivian Lang / Thresher

By Felicity Phelan     9/27/22 11:45pm

This Thursday evening, Rice community members will gather in Ray Courtyard to celebrate their peers’ artistic talents and share their own. Performances, some scheduled and some impromptu, will run from 8 to 10:30 p.m. and will include music, poetry, comedy and other ways Owls are spreading their creative wings.

The fall Open Mic Night is a key event for “R2: The Rice Review,” Rice’s undergraduate literary journal, which has been hosting the event for over a decade. Initially located in The Pub at Rice, it migrated in 2017 to Lyle’s in the Lovett College basement and joined the rest of the Rice community on Zoom in 2020. Since 2021, the event has found an outdoor home in Ray Courtyard. The increased space has allowed the event to accommodate large crowds — last year, the event attracted a crowd of nearly three hundred people

McKenna Tanner, a Hanszen College junior, is one of the R2 editors-in-chief and an organizer for this year’s Open Mic Night. For her, the event is a way to showcase the often-overlooked artistic talents of the Rice community.

“When you talk to people about Rice, so many people are just focused on the STEM aspect, when, realistically, Rice is a place full of a lot of really talented and creative and smart people in all kinds of domains,” Tanner said.

Lily Weeks, another R2 editor-in-chief and event organizer, said that they see Open Mic Night not only as a way to highlight artistic talents outside of STEM, but to challenge the dichotomy often created between the two fields and invite the Rice community to engage in interests outside their usual academic pursuits.

“[There are] STEM majors or people unaffiliated with certain [artistic] groups that can use this as a chance to try something different out or do something that they wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to showcase,” Weeks, a Jones College senior, said.

Mariachi Luna Llena, Rice’s mariachi band, will also be performing on Thursday. The band draws its members from across Rice’s academic departments, including multiple engineers. Alan Lopez, an electrical engineering major and the band’s president, says he also sees this diversity reflected in Rice arts as a whole.

“[Rice has] pre-meds or business majors that are also artists and musicians, and that’s awesome because you wouldn’t expect it,” Lopez, a Martel College senior, said. “That’s what makes Rice so great and makes our community beautiful.”

Ava McClung, a Lovett College freshman, is planning on bringing her talents to the event through a musical theater song. This will be McClung’s first time performing at an open mic, and she said that the familiarity of an all-Rice setting helps make the event less stressful.

“Everyone watching [at a Rice open mic] is kind of in the same part of life as me and there’s less of a pressure to be an upcoming professional. You can just do something you love and share it with people who have something in common with you,” McClung said. “I’m always looking for opportunities to get to participate in music and do something that I enjoy, even though I’m not really pursuing it as a professional career.”

Gargi Samarth, a Brown College senior, will be reading a poem on Thursday. Like McClung, Samarth said that they appreciate the informal and welcoming atmosphere of an open mic.

“Compared to, say, a formal concert or other readings, I feel like open mics are meant to be casual. They’re meant to be intimate,” Samarth said. “[The audience] can clap, they can snap, they’ll make noises of encouragement or feel the emotions with you, and they’re encouraged to show [their reactions] rather than be quiet as a form of respect.”

Lopez thinks Mariachi Luna Llena’s performance will be an opportunity for some of the band’s members to share an aspect of their identity with their peers.

“Mariachi is such an essential part of the Mexican culture,” Lopez said. “It’s very beautiful that we get to share that culture with the Rice community … even though [some people] don’t know the lyrics to the songs or they don’t have history with Mariachi music or experience with it, they still receive it well.”

For Samarth,  this idea of sharing and connection to others is deeply intertwined with art.

“One of my favorite parts [of] sharing my poetry is seeing what it means to other people,” Samarth said. “Art to me is still a form of communication before all else. Some communications are meant to have a response and some are just there to be put out into the world, but either way you’re telling someone something. You’re telling a story.”

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