Harlem’s famous Apollo Theater is important not only because it honors and promotes the contributions of black American performers, but also because it is a living example of progress: The building was originally a burlesque theater that did not allow black patrons. Visit the Apollo for an Amateur Night, which started the careers of so many legends—including Ella Fitzgerald—or take a historical tour of the building.
What’s the Amateur Night audience protocol? Audiences are the talent judges here. If someone doesn’t like the performance, that person boos. If others join in and the booing coalesces into a movement, a comedian nicknamed the Executioner comes onto the stage to remove the performer (but not, we hasten to clarify, to execute them).
Can I audition for Amateur Night? Yes, you can. The Apollo hosts auditions in NYC several times a year. You can also try out for the show by submitting a Vimeo or YouTube video of your performance. Check the venue’s website for audition info.
Has anyone recovered from a rough Amateur Night? Yes, Dave Chappelle and Lauryn Hill among them.
What else is going on at the Apollo? The theater has a second stage, called Soundstage, which hosts an ongoing music café and a comedy series.