October 06, 2015

Sherry tells a story at The Moth StorySlam in Seattle

On October 1, Jeem and Sherry drove down to Seattle. Jeem was hoping to meet some comrades in the struggle, and to avoid interaction with the police of course, and Sherry was hoping to tell a story.

Along the way, near Pike Place, we discovered that Tommy Douglas, one of our country's greatest Canadians, had developed a chain of restaurants in Seattle, all based on the fresh, local, sustainable model. We even had a nice lunch at Seatown, which was next to Tom Douglas' Rub with Love Shack. Who would have known?

The storytelling is really our story and it took place in a former abbey now known as the Fremont Abbey Arts Center.

This is The Moth, or more correctly The Moth StorySLAM Seattle, and it's a big deal in storytelling circles. Founded in 1997, and based in New York City, The Moth, on all its platforms (live events, radio, podcasts, books), celebrates the art of first person storytelling.

We arrived early, as the sun was setting and the crowd was gathering. The Moth StorySLAM is relatively new to Seattle, and these monthly events have become full houses with many ticket holders standing for the entire evening.

For the StorySLAM, would-be storytellers sign in at the beginning of the evening. Only ten are chosen, at random. The first storyteller is chosen by the "host" for the evening, while the next nine storytellers are picked, in sequence, from a big cloth bag, by the storyteller-just-finishing. In tonight's case, thirteen storytellers put their names in the bag.

The format at all The Moth StorySLAMS is the same. There is a theme to which all storytellers must speak. For the October 1 event, stories were to be on the theme of coincidence.The story has to be true and told without notes of any kind, and it has to be told within four to six minutes. Storytellers are scored by three teams of judges, selected from the audience by a Moth producer, on a scale of one to ten. Scores are announced after each storyteller's performance. The figure-skating judging system has its detractors, but it does create a certain amount of excitement as night proceeds.

Second up was a first-time storyteller named Jack. His was a story of high school romance, and it did involve the theme of coincidence.

Katy followed Jack and then Quincy told a story about dating in Mozambique which led, coincidentally, to a new job.

Jess introduced herself as a Jewish lesbian from the mid-west, who, while studying philosophy in college, suddenly decided to join the United States Navy.

Nikita was the eighth storyteller and we were beginning to wonder if Sherry's name would be drawn. However, when Nikita finished her story, she pulled Sherry's name from the bag and ...

At the end of her story, Sherry received the highest marks of the evening through nine storytellers. In fact, her story, and the marks from the judges, created a noticeable buzz in the crowd of about 250.

Then, under the watchful eye of the host, Sherry drew the name of the tenth and last final storyteller for the evening: Ryan.

And in the end, perhaps given the figure-skating model of judging, Ryan's story won the day, narrowly displacing Sherry's marks.

The audience was warm and supportive of all storytellers. It was a fun evening and while The Moth StorySLAMS don't provide cash prizes, it was rewarding in its own way. The host (above with Sherry, and below) was fantastic!

There are at two well known storytelling groups in Vancouver: The Vancouver Story Slam, at which both Jeem and Sherry have appeared, and The Flame, where Sherry told her first story earlier this year. Both groups showcase storytelling at the Cottage Bistro on Main. Vancouver Story Slam is on the second Tuesdays of each month and The Flame presents its storytellers on the first Wednesday of each month. Cash prizes are awarded at the Vancouver Story Slam as determined by audience votes, which adds a bit to the fun of the evening. Tuesday, October 13, Sherry is scheduled to tell a new story at the Vancouver Story Slam.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2015 by Jim Murray.

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