One of the advantages of living in a major metropolitan area is that no matter how esoteric your personal geekiness, there’s probably at least one organization of like-minded people who meet on a regular basis.
One of those groups is First Person Arts, who have been in the open mike story slam business for (I think) thirteen years. They know how to throw a good slam, and they do two a month — one at the World Cafe in University City and one on the South Side at a club called L’Etage. Last night at L’Etage was the first time I had the courage to put my name in the bucket. This is a slam, not a swap, and the competition is stiff.
In order to prep, I spent most of yesterday distilling several blog posts from a couple of years ago — about the Baby Lift that brought my sister from South Korea — into 650 words, which is about how many I can cram into a five minute time limit.
I remember when I wrote those posts and how I edited and cut and re-edited and re-worked. How I thought I had pared it all down and there wasn’t anything extra. Guess again! I think the most important question a storyteller can ask about whatever it is they’re working on — folklore, history, personal stories, even literary tales delivered verbatim — The most important question you can ask when you’re crafting new work is, “What’s this about?” That’s not the only necessary question. But for my money, it’s the most important one and the one that’s hardest to answer. Once you have that answer you can edit down to bare bones and still have a viable story.
What is it about an open mike, a story slam, an amateur storytelling program of true stories? First Person Arts fills their venues. To capacity. Consistently. Out of the 70 or 80 people present last night (a weeknight that drew people ranging in age from early 20′s to my contemporaries and maybe even older), only 8 or 9 of us came with a story to tell. That ratio of teller:listener at an open mike strikes me as odd, accustomed as I am to hanging out with self-identified performers.
Here’s an audio of my 3500 word bloggage reduced by about 80%.
“Christmas, 1961″ — christmas 1961 mp3
I brought home the coveted Golden Ticket, which allows me to enter the Grand Slam coming up in May. I don’t know what you win if you win; but it’ll be totally worth it for the bragging rights.