“Speak Up” – Open Mic at Tatiana’s Draws From Near and Far

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Story Teller & Emcee Tony Toledo

Story Teller & Emcee Tony Toledo

Story and Photos by Seth Albaum

It’s 7:00pm on a Wednesday at Tatiana’s Restaurant and Lounge on Market Street. There are a few people sitting at the bar and in booths eating their dinners. The game is on the big screen. But in the front of the restaurant, a crowd gathers, as they do every Wednesday night, filling up just about every seat in the front half of the restaurant. They eat their dinners and catch up with one another while Master of Ceremonies Tony Toledo slots in the evening’s performers. They are poets, authors of books, spoken word artists, musicians, or even just people with something on their minds to share.

Toledo says that some people have come from as far as Framingham and Worcester.

Among them is the night’s featured artist, nationally renowned professional storyteller, Judith Black.

Judith Black

Featured Guest Judith Black

But not everyone has to be a professional. “I never thought I’d get up and read things in front of people” says Charlotte Travis of Saugus. “I forced myself.” Travis finds people at Speak Up welcoming and accepting. “You don’t have to be perfect.”

Tony Toledo starts off the evening with a high energy introduction and a few short, humorous manglings of language from the book, Anguished English, by Richard Lederer, which he’ll refer to several more times as a kind of sweeper between the wide variety of acts.

Toledo’s modus operandi is to warmly introduce each performer and follow them with thanks in the form of a coin. But it is no ordinary piece of change. For each one, he tells an anecdote of sorts, giving the coin a back-story connected to the performer’s subject matter.

A slot at Speak Up allows for five minutes of an attentive audience, measured by an old-fashioned sand timer. Featured guests are allowed more time.

“I love this for the creativity. It just keeps your mind open.” says regular attendee Kevin Tsukroff, who in addition to reading his poetry enjoys meeting and listening to other people.


Honour Homans

Speak Up regular Leslie Greenberg enjoys the camaraderie in the group, pointing out that if you don’t make it one week, the others notice. “This place sort of wraps its arms around you.”

Spoken word artists, poets, story tellers, singers with guitars, some comedic, some serious, some loud and some soft populate the evening. The ages of participants range from seventeen to probably preferring not to be asked.

Featured guest Judith Black is engaging, funny and sad as she opens up about her childhood and final weeks with her mother.

Meanwhile, there are also Tatiana’s customers playing darts, sitting at the bar, and watching the game. It is the layout of the venue, and perhaps the nature of its customers, that allow these activities at the same time.


Gus Zagarella

Fourth Generation Lynn resident Don White started Speak Up with MC and Story Teller Tony Toledo at Gulu-Gulu Café, when it was located in Lynn’s Central Square. It drew a large crowd, but it was not enough to save the café, now located in Salem. (Turbine is set to open soon in Gulu’s old spot). Tatiana’s Restaurant and Lounge, located at 70 Market Street in Downtown Lynn, is its current home each Wednesday at 7pm.

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[…] on Market St. on June 16. A Wednesday was picked to coincide with that restaurant’s “Speak Up” open mic. Let us know if you’d like to join us on this or any other expedition by dropping me […]

Kevin Tsukroff

Speak-Up is friendly, interesting, fun, and opens your mind to many new things! I love going just to listen. I also share, which is even better, because Tony gives me a coin with a story to it. He always thinks up new stories for each coin that he gives out. Don, Joe, David, and others sing for us. We always have news and happenings with Regina and Leslie. With have at least three poets with international flair to them, including Elizabeth (an amazing poet who just came back from overseas recently). The other poets are young and old alike, but… Read more »


Woot! Woot! Tony Toledo rocks! Great to see you getting recognition for your work out there. Rock on!

Glenn K

Yay Tony !

Great to see such a fine write up for all the creative work that you do.

Keep it coming!

Kathy SB

Tony Toledo rocks! Glad to see you and all your efforts get such a nice piece written about you and all your regulars at Tatiana’s.

Seth, Thanks for a great write up. To all the folks reading this, come on down this Wednesday. You can be a part of SPEAK UP! too. You are welcome to take the microphone your first visit or just lay back and get the lay of the land. Your choice. We are a rat tag community of tellers, poets, folk singers and ranters who are very opinionated, very kind, and a very attentive audience. Come see for your self.
ciao, Tony Toledo, ToledoGoat@aol.com

I saw the reference in your post to Don White. He and his family are great folks. By the way Don, if you read this, please remember that you still owe me a book. Maybe that hint will reveal my secret identity.