Friday, July 31, 2015

Moth StorySlam: A First - Part 1

I have a little time before I'm meeting Dr. Sassypantsmagoo for a run, so I thought I would start on one of the posts I meant to write a few months ago.

I am a huge fan of The Moth, which is a storytelling show and podcast. I believe I have listened to every story that's available on the website. The one thing I wasn't able to do for a very long time was get tickets to a live Moth show of any kind. For a long time (although I think they've remedied this now), the tickets would go on sale about a week before the event, but I was never sure exactly when and they sell out almost instantly.

One serendipitous morning, my friend Vicky managed to check the site at the perfect time and tickets were still available. We made an immediate decision to go (there's not a lot of time for ruminating) and I bought a ticket for each of us. The event was a StorySlam and the site listed the evening's topic as "Bosses." A StorySlam is essentially an open mic where anyone can submit to tell a story that relates to the evening's topic. The only real "rule" aside from relating to the topic (and even that is somewhat flexible) is that the story must be true and it must be your own. Over the course of the evening, ten storytellers are chosen to perform onstage.

For the week before the show, I racked my brain trying to think of a story I wanted to tell. I thought of a few I could tell, but none that I felt like I needed to. It's a hard feeling to articulate, but after lots of thought, I resigned myself to the idea that I was going to pass up the opportunity to tell a story. Rather than force a story that would seem (to me, anyway) contrived, I wanted to wait until I had something true to say. I wanted to tell a story with not just factual, but also emotional truth because that is the crux of storytelling as a performance genre.

The Monday of the show arrived and I could barely contain myself during the workday. Since I didn't intend to submit, I decided that this would be a good opportunity to commute to the show by running. Kill two birds with one stone and all. My timing could have been better, but I arrived about 15 minutes before the show started and had an absolute bear of a time getting my ticket. Fortunately, Vicky had gotten there on time and was saving us seats.

When I got to my seat, I found a slip of paper on it that said "Tell us about a time when you took charge," which I thought was just another way of interpreting the theme of "bosses." Suddenly, I thought of a story I wanted to tell. I scribbled it onto the slip of paper and brought it to the front. Unbeknownst to me in the moment, I actually dropped it in the wrong container but got some help from the person standing at the front with the submissions. Crisis averted.

Ophira Eisenberg was the show host. I'm a fan of her stories, but she's even better in person. She explained the format of the show and also how many people had submitted. I imagined lots of people would submit to tell a story and that the odds that I would actually be chosen were slim to none. I was completely wrong and shocked to learn that only nineteen people had submitted. Nineteen! My odds of being chosen were slightly higher than 50%!

All the storytellers aren't chosen at once. Each person goes up, tells their story, and then chooses the next person. From the minute I put my name into the pot, I knew I was going up. It was just a hunch. One by one, stories were told and I had a small heart attack every time a name was called that wasn't mine.

As the ninth person's story came to a close, there was a split second when I thought maybe it wasn't my day and I wouldn't go up after all. But he (she? I don't even remember) stuck their hand in the bag and pulled out a slip of paper and I heard Ophira Eisenberg read my name. I turned to Vicky and made a less than family-friendly exclamation before heading up to the stage. Keep in mind, I was still in my running clothes.

I did not expect this post to drag out to multiple parts, but here we are. To be continued!

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