CREATIVE PEAKS: Gutsy Tale Tellers

By on January 5, 2016

The library’s Story Slam returns with an adrenaline-pumping theme.

Storytellers of all stripes take the stage for the library’s increasingly popular Cabin Fever Story Slam. The next installment happens Monday at The Rose. (Photo: teton county library)

Storytellers of all stripes take the stage for the library’s increasingly popular Cabin Fever Story Slam. The next installment happens Monday at The Rose. (Photo: teton county library)

Jackson, WY – To bide his time while farming bananas in Hawaii, Mac Dukart listened to The Moth podcast, which featured people telling personal, true stories. He loved the format and became engrossed in the stories.So when Teton County Library started offering live story slams, Dukart was one of the first to sign up, sharing stories like the time he brought a knife to middle school (the slam theme was “Bad Choices”), or the parasite he harbored (that slam theme was “Secrets”).

However, Dukart isn’t taking the stage on Monday night for the Cabin Fever Story Slam. It’s time to give other people a chance, he said. But he’ll be there.

It’s a cool form of live entertainment and a community event he wouldn’t miss. Hearing the stories live is even better than listening to his favorite podcasts.

“There are all these amazing stories from people you don’t know, and you realize the talent that’s here and the creativity that’s in our own little town,” he said. “There are world-class storytellers that sign up for this.”

This slam’s theme is “Guts,” and it’s the kickoff event for the library’s Mountain Story Festival, which celebrates storytelling of all kinds, explained Julia Hysell, TCL’s communications manager.

The library launched the slams last year. Those willing to share stories that fit the theme place their names in a hat. “We want people to view and feel like Teton County Library is synonymous with great storytelling,” Hysell said.

Jeff Moran acts as emcee and draws 10 names – although so far everyone who has wanted to tell a story at the events has gotten a chance with the mic. Each person called to perform has five minutes to tell their true story, which must integrate the theme, without notes. A panel of library judges picks the best story at the end of the evening. The winner of the cabin fever slam will earn free tickets to The Moth Mainstage, a live event featuring professional storytellers, which inspired the library’s slams and is coming to the Center for the Arts at the end of January.

And a little liquid motivation never hurts – anyone who signs up to tell a story before 7 p.m. gets a free drink at the Rose. “It’s really connected with folks who like the idea of being able to have a beer and also have this element of risk, as well as an element of intellect,” Hysell said. “I’m excited for how many interpretations there will be up there with this theme. There’s an element of surprise in everyone’s story–that’s the fun of it. There are some inherent elements of self-revelation in telling something true. It sort of feels like secret-telling regardless of what the theme is.”

Cassandra Lee listened to tons of storytelling podcasts so she knew she wanted to listen when the library started hosting its slams. She had a story in mind to share, but wasn’t sure she’d be brave enough to take the stage until the moment she threw her name into the hat. “It’s the vulnerability that it takes a lot of the time to admit what you were feeling,” she said.

Even when not performing, Lee loves the slams. The performances in Jackson have a unique flavor and often feature adventure. There’s always something in every person’s story she can relate to. “There’s always more facets to people than what you think,” she said.

For those wanting to share for the first time, Lee suggests pretending you are sitting around the fire with friends. Be honest, but remember that good stories have some sort of conflict or tension.

Dukart suggests just going for it. “Just throw your name in the hat,” he said. “It’s a friendly atmosphere.”

For those wanting a little more guidance, check out the library’s website to listen to previous story slams and to glean tips on telling your story.

Even if you don’t have a story to share, come hear your friends and neighbors tell their stories. Moran, the emcee, is a skilled storyteller in his own right, Dukart noted. He keeps the show moving and interjects humor.

But whether you are telling a story or just listening, be sure to show up early. The last slams have been packed, Hysell said. The Rose is also offering two-for-one drink specials on some wine and beer from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. PJH

Cabin Fever Story Slam: “Guts,” 7 p.m., Monday at The Rose. Free.

About Kelsey Dayton

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