Arts & Culture

StorySLAM spotlights tales from seniors

Humor, vulnerability define Thursday evening event in Underground

By
Staff Writer
Sunday, November 17, 2019

Last week, student performers shared personal stories to a room full of their peers. Hosted by the Brown University Storytellers Club, the event aimed to create a comfortable atmosphere for sharing and listening.

Last Thursday evening, performers filled the Underground with tales of jumping out of a plane into a field of cobras, a family of witches in the neighborhood and an exploration through an abandoned tunnel under College Hill.

This year’s Fall StorySLAM, hosted by the Brown University Storytellers Club, featured seven seniors who shared a myriad of personal narratives.

Joel Fudge ’20, a marine veteran, recalled three times he’s fallen: “once off a cliff, once out of a plane and once in love.” Fudge thoughtfully paralleled his experiences of risk and nervousness in the marines to that of falling in love, crafting a narrative that interwove military service and romance. After his dramatic, heartfelt recount, Fudge received an uproarious applause from the audience.

In another story, Catherine Habgood ’20 offered viewers a nostalgic glance into her guileless detective work involving her family friends, the Kings. She traced her serendipitous relationship with these almost too-perfect family friends from childhood to now: “I developed this theory that the Kings, this family, were witches — subtle, domestic witches,” she expressed melodiously. After reflecting upon a series of miraculous gifts the Kings have offered her throughout her life, Habgood lightheartedly ended, “and that is why my dear friends, the Kings, are most definitely a family of witches.”

Each story evoked visceral emotions that fluctuated from humorous to romantic to serious in tone, and all of the stories carried weight in the vulnerability they expressed. “We were looking for stories that covered a wide range of the emotional spectrum. … We wanted things — even if they were just ridiculously fun stories — (with) something at the end that you’re left thinking about,” explained Hannah Seckendorf ’20, one of the event organizers and storytellers.

In her own story, Seckendorf reflected with her co-storyteller, The Herald’s immersive team head Michael Bass ’20, on their sophomore-year excursion to a decrepit, abandoned tunnel under College Hill. The storytellers were scouting for the perfect location to set a film they were making. The story’s peculiarities, told in a back-and-forth popcorn style between Seckendorf and Bass, elicited bouts of laughter from the crowd. Learning “that there are secret underground tunnels somewhere under College Hill,” was one of George Noll ’22’s favorite takeaways from the event.

“We had both been independently telling the story separately. When we both reunited in the fall, it was exciting to see how we had each been telling the story differently. … When our friends found out the StorySLAM was happening, they encouraged us to tell it to a larger audience,” Seckendorf said. The alternating narratives she and Bass had been telling inspired the way in which they performed the story — interjecting and correcting one another on what really happened, she explained.

“We spent the majority of this past week — probably five to ten hours a day — workshopping our storytellers’ stories,” said Mira Ortegon ’20, another one of the event’s organizers. Ortegon and Seckendorf noted that neither they nor many of the storytellers had prior performing arts experience, so the logistics of preparing for the performance was an active, intimate learning process for everyone involved.

No matter one’s familiarity with performance, the Brown University Storytellers Club is an open and inclusive environment. Ortegon and Seckendorf reflected on the hearth and community they had found in the club as first-years, which motivated them to seek out leadership roles this fall. The club has been a formative part of each organizer’s Brown experience.

The amicable atmosphere of the Fall StorySLAM exemplified the Storytellers Club’s value for cultivating a comfortable, community-based ambience for the sharing of individual’s stories. “We really plan on recreating that culture (we had as first-years) — making a low-pressure environment where anyone can show up and just listen, even if they don’t want to share anything,” Seckendorf said.

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