By Christian Carvajal
Professional storyteller Elizabeth Lord has been the host of StoryOly since she and Amy Shepard launched that raconteurial showdown in Nov. 2015. It fills Rhythm & Rye the third Tuesday of almost every month. The annual exception arrives each September, when the previous 11 winners come together for a weekend finals round. This year, to ensure as many audience members as possible have a chance to attend and potentially compete, the start times for Tuesday events have shifted from 6 to 7 p.m.
In StoryOly’s first year, each monthly program “soft opened” with a featured, non-competing anecdote. Now each event boasts so many talented storytellers that icebreakers are never required. Audience members write their names on slips of paper, drawn by Lord at random from the pile. Once a name is drawn, that person has eight minutes to tell a true story drawn solely from his or her real-life experience, sans memorization or visual aids but adhering to a preselected theme. A trio of judges rates each story to determine that month’s winner, who in turn competes with other monthly winners in September’s “Grand Slam” finale.
The story theme for December’s event is “Making Ends Meet,” and Jan. 2019’s yarns will venture into “Uncharted Territory.” “Perhaps we’ll have stories of people taking on work that was unpleasant,” Lord says, “or perhaps we’ll have stories of creativity.” Competitors often use broader topics like January’s as opportunities to describe all sorts of adventurous explorations.
Asked which elements of past stories connected best with the crowd, Lord offers, “The essential ingredients would be, of course, that it firstly is a story in that it has an arc — and also that the stakes are fairly high in that there is a revealing truth that is not often talked about out loud to the public.” It’s important, she notes, to tell the whole truth, even if one’s story might be embarrassing or otherwise self-incriminating. “Stand-up comedians have learned that years ago,” she adds, “that self-deprecation is a great form of humor. … More often than not there’s gonna be people in the audience that are breathing a sigh of relief to learn that they’re not alone.”
7 p.m. Tuesdays, Dec. 18 and Jan. 15
Rhythm & Rye,
311 Capitol Way N, Olympia
$10-$20 suggested donation