On the day when man told the story of his life to man, history was born.
- Alfred de Vigny
Stories have always fascinated me. My family trades stories like currency. From the garbled message from my cousin Milo explaining why the book I sent him was so important to my great-grandparents’ and now grandparents’ recollections of where we come from, stories matter in my family.
When I interviewed to teach at SLA, I was asked to describe my dream class. I was nervous and unprepared. I have no idea what I described. Now, though, I am teaching it. Second semester, for two years now, I teach a class called Storytelling to SLA seniors.
As I’ve explained before, Tuesday afternoons, I set up the class like a performance space, heat a percolator of coffee and one of hot water for tea. I set out cream and sugar and cookies. Beside them, I have a tip jar.
At the front of the room is a microphone. Beside it is a table with a small sound board and a laptop.
For two hours at the end of my Tuesday, I sit at that table and listen as my students share and explode moments of their lives in our weekly class story slams. Built around the rules of Philadelphia’s First Person Arts Story Slams, the rules are simple.
Three random audience judges scoring on content and presentation.
Five random storytellers.
No more than 5 minutes.
Tuesday, I woke up with a Daylight Saving Time hangover. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to leave their bed. I dragged through much of the day. Then, during lunch, I remembered – slams.
I set up the room, bought the supplies and greeted the students as they filed in.
Describing the stories would fall short. There’s something at once vulnerable and empowered as my students stand behind the mic and share parts of their lives the people in the room have usually never been privy to.
I’ll stop here and let you listen to two selections from this week’s slam around Malice.