Monday, February 28, 2011

My first foray in the Spoken Word World

I say that it was my first time, but technically it was my second. A couple of years ago, I was asked to tell a story during a Coco Cafe evening that was to raise awareness for the Leukemia Registry and to help Heal Emru, but in that evening, I had no restrictions placed upon me.

Last night, I went to a Throw Poetry Collective evening at Le Divan Orange, which is held on the last Sunday of each month in Montreal. It was a small crowd (it was Oscar night and La Nuit Blanche was the night before, so those could've been factors), but they were eager and responsive. I was warmly greeted at the door, encouraged to add my name to the list of performers, and I found a comfy spot in a corner.

The crowd was pretty young, mostly on the University side of things, but most of them seem to know each other. I even ran into an old storyteller compatriot (Isabelle St-Pierre) who was there to share her latest poetic journey tale.

The setup of the evening is pretty simple: There were 8 performers, each being give 3:10 minutes to perform their piece. They are then scored by 5 judges in terms of content, presentation, and stage presence. The top 4 of these performers are selected for a second round, where they need to present a new piece. Points are deducted for going over the time limit (.5 points per 10 seconds) and the top three winners are announced. Between the first and second round, there is an invited artist who performs.

In the first round, I told Truth and Story, which fit inside the 3:10 limit easily. To my surprise, my overall score was in the lower 9s (out of 10), so I made it to the second round.

This was were my downfall occurred. I didn't realize there would be a second round, and I never dreamed I would qualify for this mythical second round, so I didn't have a second piece prepared. I quickly picked a second story (Love and Madness), mentally tore as many feathers off it as I could to make it fit the 3:10 limit, and delivered it as best I could.

The crowd loved it. The judges loved it. My final score was in the mid-to-upper 9s, but unfortunately, I went over the time limit by 30 seconds, which meant I lost 1.5 points, bringing me to the sad end of 4th place in the second round. Pooh.

Still, it was an awesome evening. I sat gobsmacked watching these artists deliver their pieces. Everyone has such raw talent, such hardcore passion, which is something that is not always present in storytelling performances. This is probably one of the reasons that Spoken Word is cooler and Storytelling is dorkier.

I've already mentally pulled the feathers off "The Blue Hippo" story, which makes a 12 minute story fit in the 3 minute limit, and I'm setting my sights on other stories in my repertoire. I've also dusted off my old poetry brain to see if the old girl's got any juice left in her. I'm not sure where this Spoken Word thing will lead, but I willing to try it out!

Update: the recordings of my stories from that night were put on YouTube! Thanks be to Throw Poetry Collective!

Truth & Story

Love & Madness
Copyright© 2010 John David Hickey