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Story Slam: the rules

First impressions are important, especially for those competing for stage time at the Valley Voices Story Slam.

The theme for the inaugural event is “second chances.” Ironically, hopeful storytellers will get just one chance, in the form of a single sentence, to convince judges that they should be among the 10 who will share their stories on stage March 14 at Hinge, a Northampton bar. Three of them will leave with prizes.

The first-place storyteller will get the chance to tell their story to an even bigger crowd, at the New England Storytellers Conference March 28 at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. They’ll also get four passes to the “Moth Mainstage” storytelling event and private reception at the Northampton Academy of Music Theatre on April 5.

Second- and third-place storytellers will also receive passes to the Moth Mainstage. All three top stories will be recorded and hosted on New England Public Radio’s “Audiofiles” website.

The rules are simple

“The stories need to be true and relate to the theme of ‘second chances,’” explained event organizer Debra J’Anthony, executive director of the Northampton Academy of Music Theatre. “They have to be first-person narratives, from the teller’s own life experience.”

Those who make it to the competition will have five minutes to wow the crowd. They can’t read from notes, use props, play instruments or wear costumes. For each five-minute presentation, it will just be the storyteller, a microphone and the audience, which will choose the winners.

The requirements to enter are minimal.

You also have to be at least 18 and live in Franklin, Hampshire, Hampden or Berkshire counties.

To apply, call 413-545-0788, wait for the beep, and leave the first sentence of your story, followed by your name and contact information. Phone lines are open until 5 p.m. Jan. 31. Ten storytellers and two alternates will be selected by Feb. 15.

Professional storyteller Andrea Lovett will hold a free two-hour workshop for the selected storytellers on March 2.

If you don’t make it into the running, you can still come watch. Spectators are welcome at the March 14 Story Slam and tickets will go for $5.

J’Anthony thinks she’s found the perfect story slam venue at Hinge, with a sound system and seating for 75.

“It’s an intimate setting for a story slam event, yet large enough to create some excitement,” J’Anthony said.

Opportunities to practice storytelling locally

Though not affiliated with Valley Voices, two regular events could provide the opportunity to practice storytelling before the slam at Hinge.

Spoken Word Greenfield is held on the third Tuesday of every month, at 7 p.m. at 9 Mill St., Greenfield. The event usually hosts two featured readers and 10 five-minute open mic slots.

Spoken Word Wendell is held on the last Monday of every month at 7 p.m. in Deja Brew Cafe and Pub, 57 Lockes Village Road. It follows the same format as its Greenfield cousin.

Paul Richmond organizes both events. His website is

There will be a handful of Valley Voices events in the area from now through April.

On March 12, Holyoke Community College will host a story slam.

The Story Slam competition will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Hinge in Northampton.

The New England Storytelling Conference will be held from March 28-30 at UMass-Amherst and the Moth Mainstage closes the show April 5 at the Academy of Music Theatre in Northampton.

Old Deerfield Productions is putting together a “second chances” spoken word production with Max Armen, a Turners Falls man who found his second chance by attending Greenfield Community College. The piece will be videotaped and released in February.

Valley Voices is sponsored by the Academy of Music Theatre, New England Public Radio and the League for the Advancement of New England Storytelling.



Story Slam: Got a story worth fighting for?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Telling a story in front of an audience isn’t a grade-school recitation of the Gettysburg Address. It’s the feeling of the experience you’re after, not a blow-by-blow account. “Don’t memorize your story word-for-word,” cautions professional storyteller Andrea Lovett of Abington. “You’ll end up forgetting something and then you’ll be up there searching for those wonderful words. It will pull you … 0

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