This past Sunday I had the pleasure of attending “Truth Be Told” Boulder’s bi-monthly story slam at Shine Restaurant. It was fully attended, and we were packed in like sardines on the opening of their second season. Hosted by Johanna Walker and Nina Rolle, the idea of the evening is to share stories. Everyone has at least one good tale in their life. Whether it is poignant, hilarious, wild or heartbreaking, we all have them.
As the evening opened up Walker and Rolle explained the rules. Here is how it works. You are given a theme. You tell a story on that theme. You get five minutes to tell a story on that theme. It must be true and performed by heart. No cheat sheets, no comedy routines. Just a heartfelt, honest story. To share your story you put your name in a hat. If it is selected then you mosey up to the microphone and charm the pants off the audience! They, in turn, will be given a voting ballot with various categories on it. They will vote on Most Humorous, Most Poignant, Outstanding Storytelling Skills, and Best Overall Story. The winner then will be invited to tell a story in the 2nd annual Grand Slam, which will take place in February 2015.
Now, I had been fully aware of these rules as I had written a preview piece a week prior, but there were a couple of added details that I didn't know about. If you go over your allotted 5 minutes, Rolle or Walker will gently ring a bell. If you pass 30 more seconds the ringing increases. If, by chance you reach 6 minutes they blow a horn. Also if your story is dragging on, gaining no traction, basically boring the pants off of the audience, then said audience can start to say “blah, blah, blah”, to which there is a vote as to whether or not the storyteller can continue or be shamed off the stage. I totally get the timer aspect, but the “blah, blah, blah” struck me as a little harsh, because (a) It is brave and challenging to walk up to a room full of strangers to speak and (b) I had thrown my name in the hat and was a bit terrified I would suck and get “blahed” off the stage!
The theme of the evening was lost and found. As the event progressed and names were drawn I found myself admiring each of the storytellers and secretly breathing a sigh of relief when it wasn’t my name. As previously mentioned, it is not an easy task to perform and even while this is telling a true story from your life, there has to be an element of performance for it to be entertaining to the audience. I found myself cheering the folks on as they told stories of lost sweaters, encounters with a wolf, and losing an iPod on a lonely Christmas season. Then, a name was drawn. Mine! Now, a little background on me. I am a professional performer and honestly, I rarely get nervous. It is what I have done for over 25 years. But as my name was uttered I found my heart racing and my breath increasing. Would I get “Blahed”? Would I remember my story? Would I lose my nerve? Only time would tell. So, I walked confidently up to the stage so no one would notice any fear in my eyes, waltzed up to the microphone, said hello and proceeded to tell my story. As luck would have it, none of my fears came to fruition and I actually felt pretty good about my time up on stage.
The night went on and although I found it to be a little long, I also found myself noticing how much I enjoyed hearing the stories of folks I don’t know, but came to care about. There were a couple of entertaining musical interludes and invited guests to be featured storytellers. I felt the audience was warm, welcoming and even for those who weren’t naturals at getting up in front of a crowd, the audience clapped, hollered and cheered. No one was “blahed”. I liked that! The evening was cathartic, brave and entertaining. I’m certainly looking forward to attending another story slam and maybe even throwing my name in the hat again. Perhaps I won’t have so many fears next time!