Recently in this space I wrote about poetry slams. Now, how about … story slams?
Same concept: Participants tell stories, based on a theme but from their own lives, while the audience enjoys, and, at the end of the evening, the best storyteller gets a token award to commemorate the evening.
But why? Of course, humans love stories, and have ever since mankind began gathering around a fire to share retellings of the hunt. But we’re surrounded by stories in our culture, in books, on websites, on television, in movies. So what storytelling need could a story slam possibly fulfill?
Gladgirl Shelly, innovator of Dayton’s monthly story slam, had a ready answer to my rather curmudgeonly question.
“We’ve become very distant in our culture. We have mass communication and social media, and so we can hear and read each other’s stories, but rarely do we get in the same room, look into the storyteller’s eyes, observe their movements, while hearing a story,” Gladgirl Shelly says. “For the storyteller, it’s about giving a piece of yourself to the listener. For both storyteller and listener, it’s a deeper connection than reading or hearing the story from a distance.”
Gladgirl Shelly is the moniker of Shelly Hulce, who works as a health unit coordinator at Hospice of Dayton. However, she is active in the local arts scene — producing WYSO’s (91.3 FM) “Kaleidoscope” show (Wednesdays 8-11 p.m.), hosting her own show on WSWO Ultimate Oldies Radio (97.5 FM and also at 101.1 FM), serving as booking agent for Ghostlight Coffee and managing Cat Eye Media, her business for promoting local artists and musicians. She also was part of the Smarty Pants Improv Theatre Troupe that had a nice run in Dayton for several years. “Gladgirl” became her handle for all of her artistic endeavors.
The story slam endeavor is important to her because, she says, “I grew up on a farm outside of Dayton. Our entertainment was singing to each other and telling stories. I carry that with me to this day.”
The story slams are held the third Sunday of each month, at 8 p.m., at Ghostlight Coffee, 1201 Wayne Ave., Dayton.
Gladgirl Shelly based the format for Dayton’s story slams on The Moth (themoth.org), which started with a similar impetus. Poet and novelist George Dawes Green wanted to re-create the experience of sharing stories he’d had growing up in Georgia, and he started a storytelling event with his friends; since 1997, the program has grown into a national phenomenon, with Moth events drawing numerous attendees in major cities.
“I contacted The Moth, because I love what they do, but the contact person said Dayton wasn’t quite big enough,” Gladgirl Shelly explains with a chortle. “I was told, if you can start a storytelling program that draws enough interest, maybe we’ll put on an event there.”
Well, Gladgirl Shelly organized a few storytelling events at various venues, and then landed the monthly story slam at Ghostlight 14 months ago.
The next event is Feb. 17 at 8 p.m.
“This month’s theme is ‘angels among us,’ so stories should be about someone who has helped the storyteller with an act of kindness,” Gladgirl Shelly says. “The basic rules are that the story must be true — something that happened to the storyteller — and must be told in 10 minutes or less. It must be told spontaneously, with no written notes and not rehearsed, although of course it’s good to have thought about your story ahead of time.”
• Today at 2 p.m.: Books & Co. at The Greene, in Beavercreek, welcomes children’s author Peter Lerangis (who has written more than 160 books!) presenting “Seven Wonders: Book 1: The Colossus Rises.”
• Today, 2-3:30 p.m.: Antioch Writers’ Workshop’s (www.antiochwritersworkshop.com) next Free Sunday Mini-Workshop will be at Books & Co. Instructors, past participants and board members will share details about the workshop’s 2013 programs.
• Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.: Michelle Alexander, New York Times’ best-selling author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness,” will offer a free talk at the University of Dayton as part of its Speaker Series and Black History Month activities. Her event, in the Kennedy Union Ballroom, is free. A book-signing will follow the talk. Parking is available in lots C and P.
• Mock Turtle Zine (www.mockturtlezine.com ), a local literary arts magazine, is open for submissions for Issue 7. Deadline is April 1. Also, Mock Turtle Zine is again partnering with Antioch Writers’ Workshop for a poetry contest. See www.mockturtlezine.com.