Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Washing machine stunts and "Jungle Hunt"

Ask any of us who attended last night's Stoop Storytelling event at Baltimore's Centerstage what the highlight of their evening was. I'll bet they mention one of the two items in the title of this post.

Or maybe they'll talk about the transsexual who has her own female garage-rock band. Or the former prisoner who is an actress on HBO's "The Wire."

Yes, a few of us have become addicted to this event that brings ordinary folks onstage to tell their extraordinary stories. The only rule is the stories must have something to do with the evening's theme (last night it was "My Theme Song: The Ditties That Define Us") and they must keep their stories to about seven minutes each.

Several of us went to September's "Corpus: Stories of the Body" and at least two of us (Melissa and I) plan to attend "Holidays from Hell" on Monday, Dec. 10 (mark your calendars and plan to join us!)

The stories showcase a great crossection of society, diverse voices, perspectives, subjects. I think they're generally inspiring for anyone who feels like they're getting in a rut as a writer or storyteller. The participants use colorful language, anecdotes, snippets of dialouge, description, and any number of other important devices (probably without even realizing it).

Here are some memorable lines from last night's show, which I scribbled down in my notebook because I'm a dork:

A stunt woman (from Lithuania, I think) told us she got her start in the business by creating "an astronaut training center for neighborhood children" using discarded washers and dryers as spacecraft -- what a great line, juxtaposing two things you'd never think to put together. Toward the end of her story, she brought the image back, telling us that during one jump, she faced a concrete pad below "that did not inspire confidence, no matter how many hills you've rolled down in washing machines."

Then there was the indie rocker/ filmmaker/skateboard-company owner who started his story by telling us "I grew up the youngest of five children in a house of, I guess 7? people." When we laughed, he said "That wasn't supposed to be funny." He finished by taking us through the music to the video game "Jungle Hunt" and telling us what was happening at each spot, with phrases like: "So, what you're hearing now are the vines swinging. And -- just wait -- you're gonna hear me go under water. There it is!"

These lines don't begin to sum up how funny and/or touching each story was, but, hopefully they tempt you enough to join us next month to learn more about how ordinary people find ways to tell stories about regular life in extraordinary ways that not only hold our attention, but make us want to come back for more.