At 7:00 PM last Tuesday Night, The Blind Pig in downtown Ann Arbor was bustling with conversation. Red and blue lights illuminated rows of black folding chairs surrounding a small stage. A Moth StorySLAM – a night of spontaneous, intimate, live storytelling – was about to take place!
Half an hour before the show started, the host asked for ten volunteers from the audience to spontaneously sign up to tell a story revolving around the night’s chosen theme: Fortune. After some encouragement and warnings that “the show won’t start until we get ten names in the bag!” there were eleven people signed up.
Before the first storyteller stepped up to the stage, I got a bit nervous. I remembered that the storytellers featured on The Moth podcast got months of coaching on how to engage people with their stories. These people had spontaneously signed up half an hour before! I didn’t know what to expect.
In the end, it was better than the podcast by far.
All kinds of people stepped up to the stage: a Michigan alum whose life was changed by one decision by a football player, a man who started his own consulting firm for nonprofit companies, a woman raised in the backwoods of Alaska and dreamed of moving to Detroit. Most of the storytellers came from walks of life I have never walked before, and yet I felt such a strong connection to each of them. Each one was so genuine and human – they stuttered on stage, they called out to their relatives sitting in the crowd, they sometimes had to take a moment after remembering something triggering.
After each story, the host would get back up and regale the audience with little “story slips” – pieces of paper with short story prompts on them that anonymous audience members had filled out and put in a basket at the front. They were all hilarious to hear. In the meantime, three groups of audience members who served as unofficial judges – the “Fortune Cookies”, the “Fortune Tellers”, and “Serendipity” – decided on a score out of ten to award the storyteller. They held up pieces of paper with numbers on them to whoops and hollers, and the next storyteller stepped up to the stage! It was the coolest combination of intimacy and newness – like sitting around a cozy fireplace with faces I had never seen before.
If you missed out on this event, never fear! Another StorySLAM is happening in Ann Arbor on December 14th, 2021 with the theme: Beginnings.