Last night I attended the monthly Story Slam at the Blue Chair Café.
I know the café as a friendly comfortable neighbourhood restaurant with a quirky menu and good food, and as a performance space for live music. Last night I had the vegetarian lasagna with side salad and garlic toast and an Alley Kat Orange Dragon IPA. Other favourites on their menu are the various kinds of eggs Benedict they offer for breakfast (and they are able to cook the eggs hard on request), the Pad Thai, and the pavlova.
Story Slam is a storytelling competition. Last night there were eight writers / readers / performers. A jury assigns scores, a timekeeper assigns penalties for speakers who run over five minutes, and the audience also gets to vote on an audience-choice winner. Cash prizes are funded by a collection from the listeners (the suggested minimum donation is $5). And the restaurant was full; this is obviously an event with a following.
Most of the stories were framed as first-person reminiscences with the narrator willing to laugh at himself or herself. The EPL writer-in-residence for 2013, Omar Mouallem, took home the judges’ prize for a tale that quickly created three memorable characters, the teenage Omar, his cousin, and a local crack dealer, and within the five minutes moved through a few scenes to a satisfying resolution. The audience-choice winner was Annette Sabo, with a casually-told anecdote about encountering members of the rock band Led Zeppelin on a transpacific flight. Other stories popular with the audience included Wade Kelly’s “scrawniest construction worker ever” coping with a worksite accident, and Susan Barrie’s humorous take on metaphors about dogs.
Next month’s event, Wednesday 13 February at the Blue Chair Café, is a Slam Off where the winners throughout the last year each tell a new story. And after that, well, now I’m wondering if I could give it a try myself.