Story SlamMN! at Kieran’s Irish Pub in Minneapolis. Photo by Valerie Turgeon.
Years ago in college, I attended several poetry slams at the now-closed Artists’ Quarter in the basement of the historic Hamm Building. It was my introduction to literature-come-to-life. Experiencing poetry that is not just read, but performed, garners powerful reactions from the crowd—from finger snapping to communal sighs, to roaring laughter and harmonious silence. These performances lingered far longer than any other live entertainment I’d previously experienced.
This week I attended a Story SlamMN! event, which occurs the first Tuesday of every month at Kieran’s Irish Pub. Each month features a new topic—this week it was perseverance. Ten writers took the stage to tell their story within a five-minute time limit. Five people were pre-registered and the other five were chosen randomly from a hat that night. (This means that if you have a story to tell, you have a chance to perform.)
I got a special perspective as an audience member because I was randomly chosen—and I eagerly accepted—to be a judge and rate each story on a scale from 1-10. The three storytellers with the top scores of the night qualified for a semi-final event next June. From the subject matter to the delivery and the format, I was delighted by how different each story was.
One of the winning storytellers told of his perseverance to fight heroin addiction, ending his piece by singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” (As a judge, it felt villainous to slap a number on something so vulnerable.) Another writer told a more light-hearted tale of his meet-cute with Carnie Wilson of Wilson Phillips at a grocery store. The punch line: she actually turned around and said goodbye to him in the check out lane.
During a quick 90 minutes, the storytellers shared their work—and I still wanted more. Next month’s topic is capitalism. If you can’t make it for the monthly story slam performances, other events such as poetry slams, open mic nights, and even storytelling classes are hosted by Word Sprout. And this is super exciting: Strike Theater, a venue dedicated to storytelling, sketch comedy, and spoken word, will be opening soon.
For more information and a full show calendar, visit wordsprout.org.