The art of storytelling is alive and well

October 7, 2011
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(Courtesy Photo by Paula Junn) Josh Whiton, the winner of massmouth’s “Emergency” theme night on Sept. 11, regaled Doyle’s with a tale of teenage love, nunchucks and confused exterminators.

Drunken underage little sisters, haunted trees, incontinence and world travelers featured in stories that regaled an audience of about 50 at Doyle’s Café on Washington Street at the first night of massmouth’s third season of story slams.

“‪Storytelling is an essentially human art and it creates a deep connection between talker and listener. People yearn for genuine connection. Plus performing and listening to stories is so much fun!” said Norah Dooley, massmouth’s co-founder. “The stories come alive because you’re here…There’s no story without an audience.”

Modeled after poetry slams, massmouth’s story slams invite storytellers—from experienced performers to first-timers—to share a real-life story in five minutes.

The night’s first-place winner, Josh Whiton, visiting from North Carolina, told a story of teenage love and bravery that involved late-night phone calls, nunchucks and two very confused exterminators.

“None of us intended to [perform] tonight, but the organizers were really encouraging,” Whiton said.

Each slam, 10 storytellers are chosen randomly by having their names pulled out of a hat. They each must impress the panel of judges and the audience in the room with their story.

At the end of the night, the judges select first- and second-place winners and the audience votes for its choice. Winners are invited back for the semi-finals in March.

“I’ll take as many excuses as possible to visit,” Whiton said, after saying he intends to return for the semi-finals, and if possible, the finals.

Last season’s grand prize was an Italy getaway, so the motivation to get over one’s stage fright is powerful.

Massmouth was founded in August 2008 by Dooley, Andrea Lovett and Doria Hughes to educate the public and raise the visibility of storytelling. Hughes is still active, but Dooley is in charge. Lovett is this season’s coordinator.

“With a mic and video camera [we] took to urban street corners, ice cream parlors, cafés and even apple orchards,” Dooley said, and began filling their website with photos, audio clips, and videos of storytellers in live performance.

Massmouth hosts events all over the city, with its monthly night at Doyle’s being only one of several recurring events. It also hosts story-telling workshops and fundraisers to benefit its nonprofit activities.

First hosted in JP at Bella Luna, the JP slams have moved to Doyle’s Café at 3484 Washington St., since Bella Luna no longer could accommodate the large audience the event was drawing at the end of last season.

“The response has been amazing! There is a great synergy,” between JP and the events, Dooley told the Gazette in February.

Clips of Whiton, second-place winner Allie McGovern and special guest Shawn Donovan are online at bit.ly/massmouthJP. More information on massmouth’s schedule and programs are available at massmouth.com and massmouth.org.

Update: Due to a reporting error, the original version of this story was not accurate as to Lovett’s and Hughes’s current roles. The story has been changed to correct it.

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