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Events Fri Sep 21 2012

Event Review: The GrandSLAM of Storytelling with The Moth

Storytelling Photo.jpgMonday night, September 17, at the Park West, 10 storytellers competed for a chance to be named the GrandSLAM Champion of storytelling by the Moth. The Moth is a New York based non-profit organization dedicated to the art of storytelling. The Moth currently has 10 cities participating in Story Slams across the country and expanded to Chicago three years ago to host two different monthly Story Slams at Haymarket and Martyrs' each month.

The GrandSLAM gathers the winners of each of those monthly competitions to compete to become the ultimate Champion. The 10 participants were challenged to tell a story themed around "Fall From Grace" in five minutes or less, with no paper or reading, just the teller and a microphone. Some of the stories the audience heard were from a former monk who quit the monastery, a young religious girl who lost her devout mother and rediscovered herself, a young husband whose wife came out to him as bisexual, and an atheist opening up the secular world to his Mormon girlfriend. Brian Babylon, a radio host at Vocalo, served as host of the event.

There were three teams of judges to rank between 1 and 10 comprised of at least two to four people who have been to a slam before, or have participated as a storyteller. This year, Dana Norris, host of Story Club Chicago was one of the people selected to serve on a judging team.

"The stories were heartfelt and often dealt with the most difficult moments in the tellers' lives," Norris said. "The audience was eager for the stories and I based my judging as much on the audience reaction as my personal opinion. Judging was difficult, especially when we had to knock off points for going over time. The experience overall was great and I learned a lot effective storytelling by being on the judging panel."

Alvin Lau was named the Grand Champion. As Grand Champion, he will be invited to attend the Moth Ball, a ball hosted for the champions across the country in New York.

Out of all the storytelling events throughout the city, The Moth tends to be geared to popular audiences, marketed similarly as a comedy show. Tickets for the event were sold out at $26 a pop and the venue was standing room only. While the stories were heartfelt and personal, and tellers possessed talent, they seemed over-rehearsed and lacked the genuine aspects of the art of storytelling that smaller scale events tend to showcase. The venue and content were shiny and at times overdone. The event ran 3 hours for only 50 minutes of actual stories. The GrandSLAM seemed concentrated on the theatrical, comedic aspects of the evening, and items like VIP seating and fancy cocktails, rather than the stories themselves.

The Moth is a huge non-profit entity compared to the local, grassroots shows and artists who produce and create locally. The Moth may have a broader audience, but if you're looking for a genuine storytelling experience, I would recommend attending one the many events located all over the city in different neighborhood venues throughout the month. Overall, I enjoyed the evening and the stories.

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