Story telling has been part of human history for–well–forever. In recent days story-telling has had a resurgence with digital media, pod casting and, of course, radio. Think This American Life, The Moth and Serial, to name just a few.
Here in the DC area, we are fortunate to have local, story-tellers and organizations such as Better Said Than Done. The Better Said Than Done group will be celebrating its 5th anniversary on May 28th with a show and a story contest. Audience votes will be counted, and prizes awarded. The event will be held at Vienna’s Jammin’ Java. If you are unfamiliar with Jammin’ Java, it has a state of the art stage and sound system with a capacity of 200. It serves a full menu and a bar.
In an interview with Jessica Piscitelli, Better Said Than Done, CEO, I learned lots about the art of story-telling including how story-telling differs from a live theater performance.
According to Piscitelli, “First and foremost, like theater, our stories have a narrative arc (beginning, middle, and end) and developed characters. We also rehearse and memorize our stories, just as actors practice and learn their lines.”
“Unlike theater, our storytellers don’t typically interact with each other; they are up on stage to deliver monologues. I say “typically” because we have had a couple who told a story together, and we’ve also held shows that combined improv and storytelling, so performers had the chance to work together in the improv sections during those shows. From a production standpoint, we have no costumes or sets, so the storyteller must create the context for their stories solely through their words.”
As Piscitelli explained, “Often the worst experiences in life make for a great story. It’s hard to have drama without hardship. And, when you are experiencing hardship, it’s miserable. But later on, when you have recovered, you can turn that experience into an often times very funny story.”
Founded in 2011, BSDT holds monthly shows with a different theme for each. Typically, 8 to 10 storytellers get up on stage and share a true, personal story. Typically a told story is 7-10 minutes in length and inspired by that month’s theme. Story-tellers have ranged in age from early 20’s to the mid-80’s. Most are from Northern Virginia and DC, but also Maryland and beyond. Some have been telling stories for decades, performing for national audiences, while others are first-timers.
The rest of my interview with Jessica Piscitelli focuses on the up-coming BSDT 5th anniversary celebration and story-telling contest. The 10 storytellers competing in the Better Said Than Done contest listed in alphabetical order:
Dustin Fisher, Maryland
Brent Heard, Virginia
Alison Hughes, Virginia
Liezel Munson, Virginia
Miriam Nadel, Virginia
Jack Scheer, Virginia
David Supley Foxworth, Virginia
Anne Thomas, Washington, DC
Anna Marie Trester, Virginia
Zach Wilks, Washington, DC
David Siegel: What can the audience expect at the upcoming May 28th event, Best in Show 5-year Anniversary Show and Story Contest at Jammin’ Java?
Unlike our typical monthly shows, the cast of Best in Show was selected by popular vote. We held an online contest in which over 1000 people voted to select their favorite storytellers. The top ten will be sharing never-before-told stories on stage at the Jammin’ Java show. As always, these will be short (averaging about 8 minutes each), true, personal stories, crafted by the storytellers from their life experiences.
Also unlike our typical monthly shows, this one is a competition. [The winner will receive the title of “Best in Show” as well as $500, 2nd place gets $200 and 3rd place gets $100.] Each audience member will be given one ballot with all ten performers listed out. Everyone in the audience can vote for one storyteller. There will also be door prizes to a few randomly selected audience members.
If you could invite audiences to the May 28th event who have not been to a storytelling performance before, what would you say to them?
Storytelling is one of those arts that’s hard to explain and you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s like stand-up comedy, but deeper. There are a mix of poignant and humorous moments. It’s like an open mic but, since we rehearse our shows and the storytellers memorize their performances, the show is better. There is a real connection that happens at storytelling shows between the teller and the audience. It’s a very individual experience too, as each audience member connects to different things in different stories. After every show I love talking to people about which stories they liked and why, and everyone has something different to say. It is a personal experience not only for the storyteller, but for each individual audience member. It’s a great night out!
Better Said Than Done’s storytelling competition performed at Jammin’ Java -227 Maple Avenue East, in Vienna, Virginia at 6:30 PM on Saturday, May 28, 2016 Doors open at 5:00 PM. Tickets are $15 per person can be purchased at the door or online.
Full bar and dinner menus are available and seating is limited to first come, first served. The stories are intended for an adult audience.
Note: Better Said Than Done usually host shows at The Auld Shebeen in Fairfax, VA. BSDT will return to The AuldShebeen on June 25, 2016 for the The Graduate: stories about education and graduation.