Saturday, August 13, 2016

StoryOly final slam and Grand Slam

Published in the Weekly Volcano Aug. 11, 2016
On the 16th of August, South Sound storytellers will entertain a sure-to-be packed house at Rhythm and Rye in Olympia for the last of this year’s StoryOly story slams before the 12 top storytellers of the year meet in the Grand Slam on Sept. 17.
Every month on the third Tuesday approximately 10 storytellers show off their skills and vie for first place in the raucous storytelling event. I’ve attended all but a few of the events this year and can attest that they truly are raucous, and the crowd responses are fabulous. The majority of the stories are funny; many are risqué; a few are sad, scary or touching — such as the wonderfully sweet story Keith Eisner told in July about the birth of his now 40-year-old son. Eisner is a professional writer, actor and director. Many of the storytellers are professional writers or entertainers, as are co-founders Elizabeth Lord and Amy Shephard, but even more are amateurs who mount the stage and tell their personal stories for the first time, usually in the face of great fear. And they are usually great.
Elizabeth Lord. Photos courtesy Story Oly
Community members come together every month to share, compete and tell true stories based on a monthly theme. Past themes have included “I Got What I Deserved,” “Family,” and “Revenge.” People who want to tell a story put their names in a hat, and 10 names are drawn at random. Each storyteller is allowed eight minutes. The stories must be true and personal, no rants, speeches or religious testimony, and no reading from notes or scripts. After each story volunteer judges from the audience hold up cards with scores from one to 10. The judges tend to be kind; I’ve never seen a score lower than five.
The winner from each month gets to compete in the Grand Slam in September. Winners are: Devin Felix (Nov.), Jim Foley (Dec.), Sam Miller (Jan.), a three-way tie between Billie Mazzei, Maggie Lott and Christian Carvajal, (Feb.), Lori Nesmith (March), Rey White (April), Matthew Trenda (May), Anders Hornblat (June), Eisner in July, and a final winner to be determined this month. Eisner will be out of town the weekend of the Grand Slam and unable to participate.
Shepard is an actor and choreographer well known for her work at Harlequin Productions, most recently in Little Shop of Horrors as both choreographer and one of the singing and dancing Doo-Wops. “It's been incredible to see how StoryOly events have blossomed since we started last November,” Shephard says. “Elizabeth and I are so grateful for the attendance and participation of our community. With each show we get to hear stories from many different voices, perspectives and backgrounds. If that weren't wonderful enough, there is the fact that when a patron buys a ticket, they know that not only will they see an amazing show but that half of their ticket price is going directly to Olympia SafePlace. So when you come to a story slam you not only support us, you support victims of sexual and domestic violence through wonderful organizations like SafePlace.”
Lord, a professional storyteller and member of the Heartsparkle Players, is also founder and host of Lord Franzannian's Royal Olympian Spectacular Vaudeville Show. Lord says, “I love StoryOly. I especially love how successful it's been. Full houses most nights. Its success is a confirmation of something I've always known to be true: live, oral storytelling is a powerful medium. Nothing replaces a human telling you a story, right there in front of you. Plus, with StoryOly (Like the Moth Storytelling events) the audience hears true personal stories that resonate with the universal human experience. Oral Storytelling makes the world smaller, more understandable, and of course entertaining.”
Story Oly, every third Tuesday, 5:30-8 p.m., Rhythm & Rye, 311 Capitol Way,

Olympia, 360.705.-0760. Grand Slam Sept. 17.

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