|l. to r. Dan, Farrah, Tori and Susanne in back Dan Gewertz and Phillip Bloom|
The 2nd place and audience choice winners told their story - live, no notes, props, songs or poems to a packed house. Among the tellers were a dairy farmer, a retired kindergarten teacher, radio producer, a marketing manager and a full time theater student. Storytelling connects us all and massmouth audiences and participants encompass a wide diversity of race, age, class and ethnicity. This has been an incredible season with more than half of each audience being introduced to story slams and storytelling. It’s clear to massmouth organizers that our high tech society is ripe for some low tech action – and the essentially human experience of storytelling is fitting the bill.
|Robin Maxfield on stage at the Coolidge Corner Theater|
We raised over $1,200 for our scholarship fund for the high school storytelling program, StoriesLive® as 175 people listened and enjoyed an amazing set of stories. The Coolidge Corner Theater was nearly full on April 14th as 16 semifinalsists, an Andover High School student from our program and many others offered up stories to a warm and welcoming crowd. The judges sent Farrah Haider, Susanne Boitano, Dan Dahari and Tori Piskin on to the finals, aka the Big Mouth Off on April 26th, 2011. Thanks to emcee Robin Maxfield and all who organized, supported, volunteered and listened. We raised another $109 for Partners in Health and we introduced a whole new audience to storytelling. Check out many more pictures from our wonderful photographer, Paula Junn @ massmouth.com "photos". Below is a post from the blog of contestant Farrah Haider. It gives you a peek behind the scenes and in the mind of a semifinalist...
The lights are bright. I close my eyes, intent on gathering my thoughts and my energy as a tiny voice screams in my head, “Why in God’s name are you doing this?”
This is the massmouth semi-finals. I took part in my first slam a short month before as a creative outlet. When they told me I qualified for the semi-finals, I was like “semi-what?”
I never intended to get here. My only desire had been to share a story about my dual identity and how confusing it is to be from two places. But, I can’t help but soak it all in. Waiting in the wings while listening to the chatter of other tellers feels right, natural.
As my turn approaches, I stretch my neck and arms. I expected the butterflies to be worse but, as I walk out of the wings, the stage is like familiar ground. I refuse the microphone stand. I don’t want anything between the audience and me.
The timer starts. The hardest part of this whole affair has been cutting the story down from five minutes to three. You can’t just talk faster. Telling a story involves timing, pace, allowing the audience to absorb an emotion before you move on to the next segment. You must imagine that you are dragging them through the muck of your own experience. Too fast and they miss the sights. Too slow and you bore them. Do it right and they will come with you, willingly, joyfully.
|Farrah on stage at the Coolidge Corner Theater, April 14th 2011|
Rehearsing pays off. I am able to put the time from my mind, as I know that my story will take me exactly ten seconds into my grace period.
The best part about telling a story is the audience’s reaction and this audience is wonderful. They listen intently allowing me to fill them with a little bit of my experience. And it pushes me to give them more of what is in my heart.
I can hear the applause as I walk off the stage. My fellow tellers are both supportive and encouraging. There is no competitiveness, despite it being a game. We are all in this together and you couldn’t ask for more graciousness.
When they announce my name as one of the four tellers to move on the finals, I am both humbled and ecstatic. I can’t imagine being a massmouth judge. So, finals are now a short ten days away. For me, being in the competition is enough. But, if I am really honest, the week at a medieval Tuscan townhouse doesn’t sound too bad either.
After all, God knows I need a vacation.