New beginnings – the theme for York’s first Story Slam at Holy Hound Taproom Tuesday – could have been interpreted in many ways.
It was a new beginning for a new event series in downtown York. It was held at a somewhat new venue, the back room at the Holy Hound. (The space, which seats about 60, opened for the first time Jan. 13.) And it was the beginning of a new year.
But the best new beginnings were the ones that 14 locals shared when they stepped up to the microphone Tuesday night.
Some talked about having a baby, starting a new job or even trying on boxer shorts for the first time, while a sold-out crowd of about 75 listened intently.
“It’s a great way to get to know your neighbors and friends,” Doug Knight, of Red Lion, said after telling a funny story about love and tear gas. “Whether you know everybody or not, it’s our community and it’s a safe place to (share),” he said.
Organizer JJ Sheffer said she only planned for about 10 people to tell stories. But after the 10th person finished, the crowd wanted to keep going.
After watching the first few storytellers, Sarah Cahill, of York City, mustered up the courage to tell a story after intermission about the birth of her daughter. Though she didn't prepare ahead of time, she said she felt comfortable public speaking, especially in a venue with such a strong community vibe.
“So much of the success of these (events) depends on the vibe,” Sheffer said. “(Holy Hound) is a comfortable, informal, fun place. It has that neighborhood pub feel that lends itself well to sharing a pint and sharing a story.”
The floor was open to anyone who wanted to tell a story, Sheffer said, but journalists, stand-up comedians, English teachers and other writers tend to score the best.
That was true Tuesday night when Brad Jennings, assistant managing editor for visuals at the York Daily Record, was named the first York Story Slam champion. He earned a spot in the Grand Slam Nov. 15.
If you're not familiar with a story slam, here's what it's all about.
The first York Story Slam, a kind of open mic for storytelling, packed the Holy Hound. Kate Penn
If you're a fan of The Moth, a podcast dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling, Story Slams are for you. Storytelling is a powerful, community-building tool, Sheffer said. The first Slam was held in 2009 in a living room in West Chester and has since grown in popularity to include Delco Story Slam (Delaware County), Lancaster Story Slam, Lehigh Valley Story Slam and now York Story Slam.
How it works: If you want to tell a story, make sure you register at the door before the event starts. Or, if you'd rather have a few beers first, you can wait to sign up at intermission. Typically, 10 names are pulled from a hat at each event. If your name is called, you have five minutes to tell a story corresponding to the theme of the month. Stories are then scored by three judges selected from the audience based on content and presentation. The storyteller with the top score at the end of the night wins a York Story Slam journal set from Story Supply Co. and a spot in the Grand Slam at the end of the season. Don't want to tell a story? That's fine, too. Just sit back, have a beer and a burger from Holy Hound's new food menu and enjoy.
The rules:1. All stories should be about five minutes long and must reflect the theme of the evening. 2. Notes, props and music are not permitted. And most importantly, 3. Stories must be true.
How to get tickets: Tickets are $6 in advance at yorkstoryslam.com or $8 at the door and go on sale the day after the previous month's event, Sheffer said. The January slam sold out a few days before the event, so make sure you get your tickets early. If you can't make it every month, don't worry. Select stories from each slam will be posted on YouTube and featured in York Story Slam's monthly podcast, available for free on iTunes.
Here's the list of story themes for the 2016 season:
January 19: New Beginnings
February 16: Sick
March 15: Luck
April 19: Hunger
May 17: Best Intentions
June 21: The Naked Truth
July 19: Brush with Fame
August 16: Dog Days
September 20: Lessons Learned
October 18: Unmasked
November 15: Grand Slam (theme to be announced one month prior)
All events begin at 7 p.m. in the back room at Holy Hound Taproom, 57 W. Market St., York.