|© J. Adrian Wylie|
by Stephanie Douglass
If you’re eager to hear or share a compelling story, the monthly Ann Arbor Moth StorySLAM at the Circus bar invites you to participate in an evening of “True Stories Told Live,” the motto of the NYC-based nonprofit behind the now nationwide series. The event’s popularity, both here and elsewhere, suggests it’s more than just a competition or, in our case, a thing to do on a Tuesday night. These genuine, everyday stories are vital and necessary because they represent, according to local StorySLAM host Steve Amick, a “last bastion” against pop culture’s unending barrage of zombies and vampires. So, all those fatigued from staving off the undead, take heart: if storytelling’s a sort of cultural fortress, then ours is a community skillfully and wittily defended by a diverse group of raconteurs.
The StorySLAM takes place in a lighthearted and casual atmosphere (created in part by Circus Bar’s big-top decorations) and is governed by a few loose ground rules. All stories must be real, not fiction, and related to the given theme. Also, every story must be, well, a story. “Something has to happen,” Amick explains; there must be a conflict and resolution. These guidelines are enforced by an amiable, if not tipsy, group of audience members serving as judges, who are allowed to deduct points from a storyteller’s top score of 10 for any violations. In the case of one recent story that seemed more fantasy than reality, though, the judges meted out only a soft penalty. Indeed, the competition seems to be less about winning than it is about encouraging folks to share interesting bits of their lives.
If you’ve attended a live StorySLAM or listened to the show on public radio, you’ve heard a range of Moth stories and know that each is unique in tone, content, and delivery. This kind of storytelling is a genre with fuzzy boundaries, existing somewhere between dinner-table conversation and parable and frequently claiming the stand-up comic’s territory of a
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