This winter, budding comedians, singers and entertainers can take the stage during a the Coney Island Open Mic series, hosted by the Coney Island Comedy Festival in collaboration with a New York-based Russian radio station.
Every other Thursday from Nov. 16 until Jan. 25., performers can sign up for a five-minute slot to go up in front of a live crowd at the Red Doors Bar and Grill and show off whatever talents they have. Irina Ginzburg, who goes by the stage name Upa InSpace, organized the talent free-for-all so locals could have a chance to express themselves and share their skills.
“I just think everybody’s going though hard times in a way. We want to give a space for people to try out that dream they have,” Ginzburg told Brooklyn Paper. “I feel like there’s nothing else that brings more hope than whatever that wild dream in your head.”
According to event organizers, anyone can sign up to perform — no matter their experience level. During some past festivals, Ginzburg has seen opera singers, poets, spoken word, guitarists, songwriters and more.
Bill Santiago, a comedian who has performed at the Coney Island Comedy Festival in years past, said as a performer he is very grateful for the opportunity to try out his craft in front of a live audience.
“Stage time is a precious commodity for anyone who wants to do stand up. You have to work your craft,” he said. “If you do it at home in front of a mirror, it doesn’t count. It’s not like other arts, you have to have that live audience. There’s no other way to improve as a performer.”
Ginzburg, who founded the Coney Island Comedy Festival five years ago, said the open mic is more than just an opportunity for performers to test out their material. She also wanted to offer a moment of respite for a community with so many close ties to Russia, Ukraine, Israel and Palestine — countries currently involved in violent ongoing conflicts. Ginzburg said the area could use a care-free environment full of laughter.
“I have seen a variety of people come in and they wouldn’t perform otherwise because there’s nowhere else to go for it,” she said. “The community around us deserves to have an outlet for their talent as well.”