Thursday, December 12, 2013

Telling a twenty-minute story in five minutes

Last night, I headed over to Motorco in Durham for the Monti StorySLAM event.  The last Monti event of 2013, this one had as its theme "Stranger."  Though I waited too long to buy a ticket and the event sold out, thanks to Gina's email messages and phone calls, the executive director, Jeff Polish, decided he would sell me one ticket on my promise to put my name in the jar as a possible storyteller.  I wanted to do just that, because the theme had reminded me of a bit of new material I wanted to try out for the new spoken-word show on which I've been taking notes from time to time.

I learned all of this a little less than three hours before the event started, however, and I had to work right up to when I climbed into the car to drive there, so I didn't get the planning or rehearsing time I would normally have taken.  I had, though, thought about the bit off and on for a while, so I wasn't totally unprepared.

I had a very good time listening to the stories.  As I did, though, I realized a few things.

First, the audience--a drinking crowd of about 200 in a bar--quite reasonably above all else wanted to laugh.  I should have figured that out, and normally that would be fine for me, but my story was a more serious one.  As I listened to others, I made some mental adjustments to work in more humor.

Those changes, though, led to my second realization:  my story was way, way too long to tell straight-up in five minutes, much less with humor.  As best I can now figure, it'll end up consuming about twenty minutes of a show.

Finally, I realized that because of those two facts, there was no way I was going to win.  Winning the competition obviously would have been nice, but I had come to try out the material, so I stopped thinking about anything other than the story.

After the intermission, I was the first storyteller.  I ran over the five-minute mark but under the six-minute limit, after which you lose points for running long.  The crowd applauded loudly and enthusiastically.

I ended up in third place.  I criticize myself for not doing better, because had I hit on those insights earlier I might have been able to rewrite and shorten the piece in my head, but other than that, I'm fine with the result.  I now know a better way to tell the story, and I also now see how to make this fundamentally emotional story funny and, I hope, ultimately still moving, so I gained from the experience.

I thank Jeff and his team for putting on a good show and letting me be part of it.


Rosanne said...

I am glad that you are ok w/ the result and that you feel you gained from the experience, but have to admit that I am blown away by your comment "I criticize myself for not doing better" about receiving third place. From what I read on your site, you have many blessings and opportunities. To participate in this event was both, whether you received first place or last place. No need to criticize yourself for a third place result.

Mark said...

Thanks. I view being self-critical as a natural and proper state.

And, of course, I don't know how to be any other way.

Rosanne said...

Message received. I was trying to send a kind note. Take care

Mark said...

Oh, please don't get me wrong: I do appreciate the kindness. I'm sorry if I came across as not being appreciative. I just think I need to remain self-critical. I need to improve so much in so many areas.

Rosanne said...

I guess having been raised where I could never do anything "perfect" enough, and then transferring this harsh standard to myself, the word "critical" hits a bad note. My problem there. I enjoy learning things as I can, and working to improve in areas where needed, but I guess the term I prefer is doing self-evaluation. Just seems kinder to me, I guess. Take care.

Mark said...

Fair enough. I certainly never feel I am good enough at anything.

Eric said...

Congratulations Mark! I hope you had fun. If you can figure out how the judging works, let me know. Lord knows I've never been able to.

Mark said...

It was fun. On this night, it was clear that humor trumped all else.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on third place, I'm sure all there were numerous other contestants who would have loved that honor.


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