Friday, December 12, 2008

story time

I’ve been maintaining radio silence lately because I was saving up all my creative juices for the Moth storytelling performance I was hoping to give on Tuesday night. What’s that? You’ve never heard of the Moth? Neither had I.

Basically, the Moth is a way to get up on stage and tell a good story to a bunch of strangers. It’s held twice a month, and anyone can get up there. It’s not stand up, it’s not performance art, it’s not ranting on a subject. It’s strictly storytelling.

The rules are simple: everyone puts their name in a hat, and if you get picked, you get five minutes. Plenty of people go over the five-minute mark, but sticking to the time limit is one of the criteria you’re judged on, so it’s not recommended. The catch? NO NOTES ALLOWED. Ten people in total get picked, and the judges are members of the audience who are determined at the beginning of the show. That’s it. Oh, and don’t suck.

So I’ll spare you the anticipation. I didn’t get picked. Which was certainly a bummer, but it was good just to get a feel for how the thing works. And we definitely learned a few dos and donts for next time:

Do: get there early. The line is down the block before the doors open at 7. As a general rule of thumb, if there’s a free podcast of the event on iTunes, it’s gonna be crowded.

Don’t: be at the end of said line. When the doors open, it’s a complete free-for-all for tables. They let everybody in who pays the six bucks, but the people who don’t get a seat have to stand in a tiny area by the bar, near the super hammered old Mexican dude groping anyone within ten feet of him, and sexually moaning at every syllable uttered into the microphone.

Do: have a good, tight, short story with a beginning, middle, and end. You wouldn’t believe how many people ignored this important detail in a storytelling competition. Just like in regular conversations, stories that ramble, blather on, or shamelessly go for a pity vote aren’t going to be well received. “Blah blah blah blah blah, mlah mlah mlee mloo, blee blee blah blah, my friend was HIV positive.” Next.

Don’t: forget to eat before you go. It makes the “emcee” who fancies herself a “comedian” supremely maddening. Also, it makes everyone jockeying for position in the standing area seem extra punchable.

Do: practice your story. Nothing makes people shift in their chairs faster than an unfocused tale. “We were at the store…and we were there…and there were people there…and it was a store...” Move it along. They blow a little flute thingy to let you know when your 5 minutes is up. Then they blow it again at 6 minutes, which means OK now, that’s enough. Then they blow it again at 7, which means get the f*$% off the stage, douchebag. Nobody wants to hear the flute thingy.

Don’t: get intimidated by the regulars. Some people are really really good.

So next time, we’ll be prepared. All in all, it was really cool to see. And we’ll definitely try again. If you get a chance, take a listen to a couple of the stories on iTunes (or check some out here)…they’ve been culled down to the best ones, and they make for great time-wasting at the office.

P.S. Oh, by the way, most of the stories on the site are from the mainstage, and are told by famous people or bigwigs. These are meant to be 10 minutes long. Enjoy.

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