Jackie Richardson ’21 | Assistant Arts Editor
I have a complicated relationship with the word “slam.” Every time I hear the word qualifying some literary event — a poetry reading or a storytelling event — I feel my stomach lurch, as though I caught a whiff of some food that once gave me torrential runs. Not that I only have bad experiences with slams, not at all. But for every poem I’ve heard that revelled in the snap of a word as it rolled off the tongue, for every story I listened to that sparked against the speaker’s animated telling, there were five, ten, fifteen others that made me cringe back into my seat.
There weren’t any like the latter kind at the Best of Valley Story Slam (not that there would be). As the name of the event implies, the storytellers had already won a preliminary contest to get there. Before then, people called in to New England Public Radio and shared the first line of a story they wanted to tell. Some were chosen based on this first line to participate in a Valley Voices story slam; those who won first, second or third in these slams went on to participate in the Best of Valley Story Slam that took place Oct.13 at the Academy of Music theater. There were 12 storytellers.
The rules were simple. They had five minutes to tell their stories. At the fourth, a bell would ring, and at the fifth, a violin would play, letting them know that their time was up.
I tried not to let my own prejudices against slams infect my expectations for the evening. But even if they did, the reality of the evening would have dismissed them immediately. It was really good. It was like going to a party where everyone is exactly as witty, funny and interesting as they try to act — no, even more than that. The content of the stories ranged from sad ones, devastating ones — one about admiration gone unexpressed to a hardworking dad, another about a father dying — to lighthearted, hilarious ones — one about finding out your girlfriend has joined a convent, another about accidentally going to an orgy.
At the end of the night, the audience voted for their two favorite speakers, and the top three out of over 800 votes were announced. In third place was Eve Brown-Waite, who told a story about her love of the Red Sox. In second place was Kevin Gallagher, who recounted his first orgy; and finally, in first, was Tim Gills, who told the story of his father’s struggle to overcome his alcoholism. Make sure you go to the fifth Best of Valley Story Slam next October, and check out some of the stories on the New England Public Radio website.