Well hello good people of the Americas! I’m back from the UK and it was an amazing trip! Given that Jeffrey and I were completely wankered the entire time, I don’t remember much. I’m kidding. I hardly drank because I was too busy shagging sexy British storytellers. Well… that’s not true, either. My trip was actually rather wholesome. Oh well.
The main event – the UK vs. US Story Slam was a blast and Team USA won the audience vote, but, in truth, the UK storytellers were just as good. About a hundred people showed up to hear true stories on the night's theme: Borders. (Thanks to Florian Schadauer for the fantastic photos. See all of them on Flickr).
Author and founder of Chicago’s Windy City Story Slam, Bill Hillman, who organized the event, started us off with a story about his very recent recovery from being gored by a bull during the Running of the Bulls in Spain. His story was more about how he dealt with the public’s reaction to the incident than the incident itself. Apparently, people were vicious, saying things online like “I wish you had died.” The injury was AWFUL by the way. Just barely missing a main artery, which would have killed him almost instantly, Bill was left with a huge gash in his thigh.
UK author James Benmore performed the next story. This was his first time telling a live story and he was nervous beforehand, but you couldn’t tell once he was on stage. He totally nailed a story about a love triangle gone wrong. The guy painting his house had a wife at home in Poland and a girlfriend in London. When said-wife showed up in London, a fight broke out at James’ house mid-paint job. After the two women stormed out, James stood waiting to see which woman the painter would choose to chase down—to see who, in the end, was his true love—but the painter chose neither and, instead, finished the paint job. His first love, apparently, was his work.
James was followed by Yours Truly and, as you may have guessed, I crushed. I showed those bizatches how we Yankees do it right. Obvi.
Next up was co-producer Mary Lockwood who is an independent storyteller and works in the schools and such. Mary's story was about a time when she'd been working in Bulgaria and was taking a sleeper train to Kiev in Ukraine. The train had crossed the border into Romania when an Italian guy came into the cabin and started taking his clothes off. One woman started screaming, another pulled out a meat cleaver, a guard arrived to blow his whistle, and she had only a pen to defend herself with. With no other plan and no one taking charge to calm the situation, she stepped in and in her sternest voice directed each of them: "You! Stop screaming. You! Stop blowing your whistle. You! Put down your meat cleaver. And you! Put on your clothes!" Fortunately, they listened and then she shared her packet of rich tea biscuits before cutting my journey short and getting off the train in Bucharest.
Public speaking and performance coach Johanna Walker, founder of Boulder’s Truth Be Told was next with a suspenseful and believable story about ghosts that shook her house. MIchael Anderson of MassMouth also told a story and then people from the audience shared stories on the spot to round out the night.
I’m grateful that we got to be a part of this event. The Book Club is a cool venue in a great neighborhood.
I had hoped to meet the folks who run Spark London and get a better sense of the storytelling scene in London, but they couldn’t make it. My impression is that it’s newer and less widespread in the UK than the US, and is still developing, but it’s exciting to see the storytelling craze continue to grow and spread globally. Definitely hope that SpeakeasyDC can stay in front of the curve. Especially, since we have recognition among others as being one of the longest running storytelling programs in the world, with one of the largest communities of storytellers and story enthusiasts, and a notably high caliber of story talent that has been cultivated by our comprehensive commitment to coaching, teaching, and generally nurturing new talent. I don’t mean to sound boastful, it’s just nice to note where we fit in the grand scheme of this growing global trend. So, yay us!
I have so much more to share about the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, but that will have to wait for UK Dispatch #3 cuz I'm completely knackered.
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