What exactly is a story slam?
As I began my internship with massmouth, I found myself trying to imagine exactly what I had just gotten myself into.
Would there be rhyming? Would people be too cool and not welcoming to this newcomer?
Would they force me on stage to tell a story? Would I enjoy myself?
With an open mind I attended my first story slam this Sunday September 9th at Doyle's Café in Jamaica Plain.
I arrived early, hoping to find a quiet corner to take notes and not be noticed, but quickly the room filled up and I found myself surrounded by friendly strangers who I chatted with while I sipped a beer.
Our host Robin Maxfield welcomed us to the 3rd season of slams at Doyle's [Ed. note: 4th season for massmouth!] and began explaining the rules of the story slam.
All stories are to be true ones, stories have to come from your memory and not be read from notes and all storytellers have a 5 minute limit to tell their story. Anyone who wants to share a story puts their name into a hat and won’t know if or when they are going up until about 5 minutes before. Every slam has a theme. This week's theme was 'Schooled: How I learned a lesson the hard way'.
Stories are judged by the audience and 5 guest judges. There is also a guest speaker every slam and this week's guest speaker was Dr. Dennis Becker of the Speech Improvement Company (http://speechimprovement.com/index.php)
The first official storyteller was Jackson Gillman, and from what I could tell, he seemed like a regular and told an entertaining story about falling asleep during a music class in high school and getting water dumped on his head by his teacher.
Next up was Owen Grey's tale of a professor telling him to give up his goal of one day being a great poet, although the professor gave him some tough love, he sticks out his passion and is taken under another poet's wing and only time will tell if Owen or the professor is going to learn the lesson.
Sandy Miller-Jacob’s story was a short and sweet tale about how she shocked a young student by telling him she did NOT celebrate Christmas, causing the young boy to tell her, “You’re gonna be in A LOT of trouble!” for not celebrating.
Fourth was one of my favorites, told by Tori Piskin. She came right out and said, “I know I look a lot like Orphan Annie (which she did) but that she wasn’t a bully. Her story about being in middle school and being picked on and called a lesbian by the “cooler” girls made me laugh and also remember the pains of adolescence. Tori stood up for herself only to have it backfire with a teacher taking her into his office and accusing HER of bullying, sending her home in tears and distrustful of teachers. Many years later, Tori's friend sent her a newspaper article about that same teacher being arrested on charges of child pornography.
Next up was Brendan Schenider’s story of getting "Fantastic," consuming a whole box of raisin bran and the painful result of his “fantastical” mistake. This story got a lot of laughs. There is something about poo stories that will always get a crowd going.
Our sixth storyteller was Paula Junn, who is also the photographer for massmouth. Years ago, when Paula was, “Fresh off the boat from Korea,” (her words! not mine!) and seeking the approval of her peers, she attempts to introduce them to Kpop. Seeing as she enjoys American pop music so much, she thinks this should be something they will connect on. Sadly, her plan backfires. While playing some of her favorite tunes, a boy she has a huge crush on hears the music and yells, “What is this shit? Turn this shit off!” Mortified, Paula turns the music off and eventually deletes her extensive Kpop music collection. As a music collector and lover, I was horrified at this! Deleting or throwing out my music would be like tearing out my soul... and what was wrong with that guy? What kind of closed minded jerk are you? Leave Paula ALONE!...sorry this really just broke my music loving heart.
(Paula, you’re better off without him, this one goes out to you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7mPqycQ0tQ
SO CATCHY! SO FUN! AND OMG CAN THEY GET ANY CUTER!!!! KPOP RULES!!!!!
RIP Paula’s music collection.)
Seventh, Keelin Roche shares a story about her time in the Peace Corps. When she gets low on candy bribes for a local village boy to fetch her weekly water, she decides to tough it out and get it herself -- only to drop it, spilling her water and breaking her water vessel in front of her local friends. If that wasn’t humiliating enough, her friends teased her more and said, “You’re white and weak, we have a 9 year old that can do that for you.”
Mary Hannon was our eighth storyteller and last year’s 3rd place winner at last year's Big Mouthoff. While hiking in a foreign country, Mary and her friend made a pit stop and were offered a massage. One thing leads to another and Mary ends up nearly naked on a table very close to some other travelers eating their dinner. This experience taught her to say 'no' and that being polite and always saying 'yes' wasn’t always best for her.
The next storyteller is also a slam winner (he won first place at a slam at Doyle's last year), Chuck Collins. Chuck’s story is the gut wrenching tale about how he stood by when a classmate was being bullied and instead of standing up to the bullies, he did nothing because he was scared of being targeted too.
Our last storyteller for the night was Miles McDonough, who was telling for the first time tonight. His story was a gruesome tale about his uncle who was a rookie cop and didn’t wait for his back up, resulting in his face being bitten, which left half of it, “hanging there like a piece of pastrami.”
|"Schooled" Tellers. Not pictured: Owen Grey, Paula Junn.|
After all the scores from the audience and judges were tallied, our winners were Sandy’s Xmas adventure in 3rd place, Brendyn’s great fiber mistake in 2nd and Doyle's semi-finalist from last year, Chuck Collins in 1st.
Student, mom, massmouth Fall 2012 intern
Want to watch videos of the stories described above? Go to http://massmouth.ning.com/video!
Want to find a story slam near you? Go to http://massmouth.ning.com/events
All photos courtesy of Paula Junn.