Stubborn Dreams

Getting out of my cube

I love First Person Arts’ StorySlam

with 2 comments

What is StorySlams? Is it just one of those cool, word-of-mouth, interesting Philly happenings? I originally wrote this testimonial for First Person Arts in May 2008. Tickets for the GrandSlam competition on November 15th during the First Person Festival can now be purchased online and they will sell out in advance.

I’ve been going to First Person Arts’ StorySlams since the inaugural one. I do not have a perfect attendance record, and I believe missing a couple proves that I am not completely hooked.

In April, I had the honor of winning the StorySlam contest at the StorySlam’s Slammiversary. In the post-win afterglow, I sent out the YouTube video link of my story to some (ok, a lot) of my co-workers and friends. I was surprised to hear from some of those who watched it that they thought I had a pretty good standup routine. That it was entertaining. A few even requested that they inform them when I was performing next so they could be part of the audience.

Performing? I probably couldn’t deliver that same story again, on demand. That night, for the first time in my history of StorySlams, I was relaxed (and in the words of awesome storyteller Juliet Wayne who I adore) and was able to be myself and tell my story, going off multiple tangents. Traditionally, prior to getting picked (or not picked), I’d be a non-conversational nervous recluse. However, in April, storyteller Ingrid Wiese spotted me when I entered and invited me to sit down at her table with friends (including Juliet). Well before the magical moment at the end of the night when my name was drawn as the final storyteller of the evening, I was relaxed and having fun.

Sadly, I feel that my friends who see my winning story as a good stand-up routine are missing what StorySlams is about. I never went to StorySlams to win. I go to StorySlams to hear other people tell their own stories and learn from them. To hear that some people don’t actually obsessively think, dissect, and analyze before doing something.

At the inaugural StorySlam, I told my story of how moving to Philly from the suburbs was a stretch for me and how insecure I felt, relating how I actually turned off my lights on those first few Friday nights to pretend (to myself and my neighbors) that I had gone out while sitting alone in the dark. I followed that initial story with a stream of similar but different stories about my insecurities and weaknesses. Even with opening my kimono and revealing myself, I never scored highly, and I resigned myself to not realistically ever winning. Yet, I was addicted to StorySlams – the variety of storytellers hooked me – it quickly became one of my favorite aspects about living in Philly. Even if I had a long day at work that particular Tuesday, I would drag myself over to L’Etage and walk in and feel at home. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like the attention/sense of power I’d feel because I’d become part of the regular lineup of storytellers. However, the point I want to make is this: when I go to a typical bar/event, I usually feel out of place. I’ve always felt at StorySlams that I didn’t have to try to be anyone, I could just go there, go up and reveal myself and be me. And people actually liked it. After one of my stories, an audience member once complimented me that she liked how “I tell my insecure stories insecurely.”

While I still struggle with getting out of my cube/getting out of my apartment, I feel that StorySlams and First Person Arts has helped me find a sense of belonging to something in Philly. I’ve met some interesting and unique friends who I would not otherwise have connected with through this monthly celebration of storytelling. I’ve even been recognized on the street more than once. I don’t claim to know where my life is exactly going now, and I feel that StorySlams has become part of my personal story, as I work on revising who I am now to who I want to become. Some people say that you have to be brave to get up there and tell a story, and I’ve never felt it was a big deal – which makes me realize that some things which I think are a big deal aren’t really.

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Written by kleeruby1

September 21, 2008 at 7:45 am

2 Responses

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  1. Thanks Kevin. That’s a really nice tribute not just to the StorySlams but the community that has kind of grown up around and out of them. Not sure if you’ve seen this yet, but even if you’re not a singer, the Philly Complaint Choir is bound to be fun: http://complaints.firstpersonarts.org

    See you Tuesday? We’ll have festival brochures up to our eyeballs.
    Andrew

    Andrew

    September 22, 2008 at 12:45 am

  2. Hi Kevin,
    Andrew sent me a link to your blog and I love it! I love that line about telling insecure stories insecurely.
    you’re right. it’s not about stand up. it’s a different- more full bodied, all encompassing- kind off performance. Having a story by you in the night’s mix makes the show more special. We should have another trainwreck coming soon, at my house for my sister’s birthday. oct. 3 rd or 4th i believe. let me know if you can tell a story, or if you’d like to just come to the party.
    love,
    Juliet

    juliet wayne

    September 23, 2008 at 4:04 pm


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