How The Duplex Changed My Life
by Alan Winner (Performer, Writer, Artistic Director)
I moved to New York with $1000 in my checking account and a head full of ambition. Within a few days of being in the City, I had re-connected with a friend who introduced me to Ben Cameron and Broadway Sessions. At the time, Broadway Sessions (now in its 5th year at The Laurie Beechman Theatre) was at Therapy on 52nd street and there was not yet the open-mic portion of the show.
Luckily, Ben also co-hosted another night down in the West Village completely dedicated to open-mic. I hopped on the ‘1’ train and got off at Christopher Street. I walked in the door with “Duplex” written above it and made my way to the upstairs cabaret theatre.
The night was called Mostly Sondheim and I had expectations of singers taking themselves seriously, belting out some of the most complex compositions in Musical Theatre.
I couldn’t have been more incorrect. The “Mostly” was added when the hosts realized that sustaining a 4-hour open-mic consisting solely of one composer is enough to drive anyone around the bend. The flexible rule stands that you should sing something from a musical, but if you want to sing a pop song, they simply ask that you “act the shit out of it.”
As far as the singers taking themselves too seriously… well, it turns out you don’t even need to know all the words. Make them up, or read from your iPhone. If you hit some rubbish notes, just finish with an exaggerated, Bernadette Peters-style, Sondheim ending and all is forgotten.
Cheers fill the theatre as you make your way back to your seat to see who’s next up. Ben treated me like a friend from the moment I met him. He called me “the part-time Brit” as I lived in Great Britain for 6 years and had picked up a pesky “Madonna accent”.