Friday, February 19, 2010

In my ongoing quest to absorb every ounce of New York culture I possibly can in this, my third and potentially final year in NYC, last night I shifted gears from the glitz and glamour of New York Fashion Week and indulged in a rather primitive form of entertainment by experiencing The Moth StorySLAM. I use "experience" because that's really the only word that properly describes this forum of raw, brave amateur storytelling, as "an experience" to behold. Hosted by the Housingworks Bookstore Cafe, I was forewarned of the packed crowd this event brings in night after night, and last night's performance was no exception.

But before I get to the performance details, an observation on what I've grown to accept as a fact of living in a city of 8 million: any event that is 1) inexpensive (admission is a mere $7); 2) reputed by word-of-mouth; and 3) hailed by a NY pub such as TONY, The Village Voice or New York Mag (the kiss-of-death, as I like to refer to it) is going to attract such a hoard of people that it generally isn't worth the bother to attend the event in the first place (Note: I cannot overstate, this is a part of City living that I loath). Not so for The Moth StorySLAM.

The premise is this -- 10 amateur storytellers are brought onstage to an open mic and allowed 5 mins to spin a yarn around a predetermined subject. Three panels of judges then rate the performances, and the top scorer wins best storyteller for the evening. Hosted by an MC who offers humorous interludes between stories to allow time for judging and introduce each participant, the event's only flourishes include the sales of beer and wine, again at modest prices and in plastic cups or PBR cans, which the MC enthusiastically endorses. Sounds simple enough, right? But what is so captivating about this performance is exactly that -- it's simplicity, the art of storytelling, in its purest form. In a world full of conveniences like Netflix, iPhone apps and on-demand everything, something as simple and pure as storytelling as a form of communication is so riveting and fresh and ... new.

Last night's subject was "tradition." Fitting, especially because in today's instant communication information age, it's particularly worthwhile to slow down for an evening to experience the tradition of storytelling. Even if it comes with traditional New York crowds included.

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