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St. Elmo Speak Easy Credit: Connie Kang , Connie Kang

An open mic at the St. Elmo Club can feel more like a friendly get-together than a structured performance.

On Wednesday night, about 70 students gathered at the St. Elmo’s chapter house for its second biannual Speakeasy Open Mic charity event.

This year’s charity is Actively Moving Forward — a national nonprofit that helps students cope with the death or terminal illness of a family member. Last year, St. Elmo donated the proceeds from its Speakeasy to the Children’s Literacy Initiative of Philadelphia.

College sophomore and St. Elmo’s philanthropy chair Caroline Kee explained the motivation for shifting focus in the event’s second year.

“One-fourth of all college students each academic year will lose a family member,” Kee pointed out. “Over Christmas, one of our members lost her father, and she has found this [to be an] incredible support group.”

She added, “There’s always [Counseling and Psychological Services], and there’s always counseling and therapy, but AMF really focuses on creating a community of students who can relate to each other …. We thought it be great to harvest talent on campus and use our connections … to the performing arts groups.”

The fraternity’s social chair, College junior Wes Spiro, also sees a need to fill a neglected niche on campus.

“There are other open mic events, but a lot of the performers that feel comfortable performing here don’t feel comfortable performing in other spaces,” he said.

Spiro also emphasized the speakeasy’s unique ability “to bring people together in a different type of way.”

The event’s focus on charity, however, did not lack levity.

Wharton junior Celia Lewis elicited consistent laughter with her dramatic reading, titled “The Internet Responds to Girl Talk.” The piece included funny tweets and Facebook status updates by Penn students in the wake of the Social Planning and Events Committee’s announcement of Girl Talk as this year’s Spring Fling headliner.

One of the night’s first performances — by College sophomore Joy Li — contributed to the laughter-filled evening. Li, who admitted to being an avid around-the-house singer, covered two brief songs concerning the lighter side of love and relationships.

Li appreciated the speakeasy’s opportunities for creative expression. “There is a lot of talent at Penn that is undiscovered, and this gives people a chance to share it with their friends,” she said.

College freshman Gabriel Ojeda Sague, who performed nine brief poems at the event’s start, noted the positive atmosphere via email after the event. “Everyone seemed excited to just listen, and I think [the event] being for charity helped that energy.”

College freshman Nick Defina, whose poems received receptive snaps from the audience, echoed Sague’s sentiments. “It felt very welcoming, and all in all, the vibe was really positive,” he said.

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