Open Mics are naturally a bit of a freakshow. 

Over the past few years, Dave Williams has worn plenty of hats in our local underground music scene: He’s been the frontman and main songwriter for the underrated indie-rock group HoboErotic; he’s been a focal point of the acoustic Americana act The Darlins; and he’s been a champion of many other nascent talents in Savannah’s burgeoning alternative rock community.

Hell, he even ran for mayor a few years back. Sort of.

But one thing Dave Williams has never been accused of being is a playwright. Until now, that is.

This weekend, his first play – the two-act music-scene dramedy Open Mike – will premiere on the campus of Armstrong Atlantic State University (although it is not actually sponsored by the school), and to hear Williams tell it, he’s as surprised as everyone else that he had it in him.

“I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of doing this,” he says. “But the truth is, I did it on a whim.”

Although the affable guitarist and singer had studied drama briefly in high school, and actually nabbed the lead role of Conrad Birdie in the musical Bye Bye Birdie his senior year, he’d fallen out of theatre upon entering college, and put all his energies into songwriting.

It seems, however, that in the end, all it took to get him loosened up enough to try such a feat was a few beers.

“A few days before my birthday, me and some friends were out drinking, playing pool, and talking about plays.

“One of them had just put on a production of Closer a few months ago. I asked her if I wrote a play that didn’t suck, would she consider directing it. She said she’d definitely consider it.”

That friend was Kristi Snyder, who founded Stegosaurus Entertainment with her friend, screenwriter Kirk White (himself a former professor at AASU and finalist for the Project Greenlight movie financing competition). Snyder says she’s known Williams for some time now, and while she knew he was talented, he can also bite off more than he can chew.

“I really couldn’t believe he held up to his end of the bargain,” she says with a laugh. “I mean, it was a ten-minute conversation in a pool hall! But three or four days later, he calls me up while I’m down in Florida and tells me he’s finished!”

Once she examined the play, she was surprised at what she found.

“You know, it was a great read,” says Snyder. “It was funny and witty, and even though it was about a situation I was unfamiliar with, I was drawn in to the story. Once Dave explained to me what some of the references meant, I appreciated it a lot more, and hopefully the way we’ve staged the show will allow the audience to get those references, even if they’ve never been to an Open Mic or hung around songwriters.”

While the stereotypical drama that surrounds musical amateur nights, or “Open Mics” may have felt foreign to Snyder, Williams was as comfortable in this milieu as one could imagine. A veteran of such musical free-for-alls, he says he immediately gravitated toward this environment when choosing a setting for his first foray into drama.

“Open Mics are naturally a bit of a freakshow,” he offers. “It’s both disastrous and funny at the same time. It’s hard to believe the variety of people that get up there. There’s so much ego involved just in stepping on stage, and it can bring out the clown in folks. But, even then, you can still wind up catching some amazing performances by complete amateurs.”

He says the forty-page script draws liberally on his own experiences, and that many aspects of the play’s eight characters are taken directly from conversations he’s witnessed or been part of in our own local music scene. That said, he’s unconcerned that any of his acquaintances will see themselves in his show.

“There’s nothing vicious or specific in there. It’s mostly composite characters that I’ve drawn from real life.”

And, as in real life, these actors are required to perform songs on their own, just as they would at a real Open Mic.

Williams says that he’s enjoyed this process so much, he’s looking forward to penning another short play soon.

And would Snyder be up for working with the budding author again?

“Definitely,” she smiles.

Open Mike runs August 18-21 at 7 p.m .at the Jenkins Theatre Black Box on the campus of Armstrong Atlantic State University. Tickets are $5 .


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Jim Reed

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