Last night was a Story Slam at the Monti in Durham: seven storytellers, six minutes each, three teams of judges. The rules: the story you tell must be true, you must tell your story without notes, and you must tell a story about the chosen theme. Then strangers will judge you, and rank order your story in front of a crowd of strangers.
I find this terrifying. I can’t believe people stand on a stage and do this willingly, but they do. And it’s worth watching.
Telling stories is great, of course, when you can write them down while drinking coffee at Third Place, and hit “publish” and then shut down the computer. There are no people looking at you, and no bright lights in your eyes. There is no chance you will trip on your way up to the stage or get tangled up in the microphone wire. For that matter, there is no microphone. Microphones are kind of terrifying in and of themselves.*
All of that is to say: I really admire anyone who will throw their name in a hat, and stand up and share something deeply personal with 200 strangers in the form of a story. Last night the theme was “celebrations.” There were stories about travel, stories about families, stories about celebrations gone wrong. The story that won had everyone, including the storyteller, in tears. It was a story about pouring out your heart to someone who doesn’t feel the same way, and trying to put everything back together after that, and finally realizing all that you have in your life worth celebrating, and that all of that was there all along.
It had to have been an excruciatingly hard story to stand up and tell a crowd, and the crowd couldn’t have been more supportive. I’ll bet the storyteller felt a million times better once she put words around the heartache, and threw it out there in public, and heard what everyone else had to say about it afterwards. That’s what’s so powerful about the “true stories” rule. Whether the stories are painful, or funny, or awkward, or crazy, or beautiful, or sometimes all of those things at once, they’re deeply human. After all, that’s what brings us all together, even if our experiences in this world are wildly different.
That, in and of itself, is worth a celebration.