I was recently asked to participate in Scranton’s first StorySlam event, which will be held on March 31, because of my involvement with Prose in Pubs. Storyslam is the project of local high school student, Madeline “Zoe” McNichols, who is being mentored by Maureen McGuigan. With the event just around the corner, I caught up with Zoe to talk about this exciting new event in the Electric City, and her inspiration for the project:
What exactly is StorySlam?
The Scranton StorySlam is a night of storytelling similar to those hosted by The Moth, an organization based in New York City dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. On this particular evening, The Vintage Theater will serve as a stage for 10 incredibly talented personalities, each telling a five-minute true story from memory. In Moth tradition and to tie the night together, each story will adhere to a theme. The theme for the first Scranton StorySlam is “Warning Signs.” The theme is intentionally very general, allowing the storytellers to take the audience in any direction, from pants-peeing hilarity to soul-wrenching heartbreak. It’s called a “slam” because it’s presented in the form of a competition, which results in a high energy and engaging environment.
How did this idea come about and what made you choose this for your project?
Story slams are becoming popular around the country and around the world. In fall of last year, my family and I went to see a Moth story slam in Brooklyn. The theme of that slam was “chutzpah,” and as you can imagine Brooklynites know a thing or two about chutzpah.
The event had such broad appeal. There were older couples, people my age, hipsters, bikers and college students. Everyone had such a great time, and I wished it were something I could attend more often and share with my friends. So, I decided to undertake organizing this type of event at home as my senior project.
Tell us about the storytellers you have lined up.
Selecting fantastic storytellers was key to making the slam a success. I reached out to people in the community who I saw had a love and commitment to the arts and to Scranton, such as: Alicia Grega, Jeannine Luby, Sarah Stachura Regan, Tom Borthwick, Conor O’Brien, Rosemary McGuigan and Tim McDermott. In addition, 25/8 Productions will be videotaping the event and Conor McGuigan will serve as Master of Ceremonies.
What can people expect at the event?
Doors will open at 7 p.m. and there will be a reception with wine for the adults and light refreshments. The cafe will also be open. At 8 p.m. the stories begin. Stories will be told from memory in the tradition of old-fashioned storytelling. The storytellers are all very talented and engaging performers, so the audience can expect to be spellbound and perhaps inspired to tell their own stories at future events. There will be an intermission with live music. At the end of the night the judges will announce the winner.
What do you hope people take away from this night?
I hope that people who haven’t really experienced live performance before will be hooked, and those who are already patrons of the arts will come away with renewed appreciation for local art and artists. I also hope that the event will bring awareness to a new audience of the rich art scene that exists in Scranton through an introduction to our talented storytellers and the creative projects in which they are involved.
After completing this interview, I think I can say with confidence: Come witness my humiliating defeat at Scranton StorySlam!
Scranton StorySlam will be held March 31 at The Vintage Theater, 119 Penn Ave., Scranton. Doors open at 7; stories start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door.
Amye Barrese Archer is a writer and teacher in Scranton. You can read more about her at www.amyearcher.com