NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

January 9, 2014

'The power of stories'

Full Moon slam series invites people to share personal tales

By Ann Reily
Features Editor

---- — The idea was born during a trip aboard The Full Moon on Labor Day.

Suzanne Dubus, Sara Quay, Marc Clopton and Liz Desmarais were enjoying the day on Anita Rossi’s boat when talk turned to The Moth podcast, which features favorite stories from the New York nonprofit dedicated to the art of storytelling.

“We began to talk about how wonderful it is to hear people’s stories because we live in this age where there is so much distraction,” Dubus said.

She proceeded to tell the group about the time that she and her husband had a fight without actually speaking.

“We were on our respective laptops with our daughter sitting between us watching a movie,” she said.

The group on the boat agreed that it would be great if they could give people a place in Newburyport where they could share their personal stories in front of an audience.

“We got more and more excited,” said Dubus, chief executive officer of the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center.

The four began to meet and devised themes and a calendar for four story slams at The Actors Studio of Newburyport, where Clopton is the executive director. The first Full Moon Story Slam, named after Rossi’s boat, is set for this Saturday.

To prepare for their first event, the organizers attended a slam in Cambridge and really enjoyed themselves.

“It was such a supportive, warm, wonderful environment, and that’s what we want to do,” Dubus said.

They also reached out to the sponsor, massmouth, a statewide organization of storytellers.

“They have been really generous and said, ‘Don’t reinvent the wheel, we have everything you need,” Dubus said.

Massmouth co-founder Norah Dooley will speak at this weekend’s Newburyport slam.

“She’s really devoted to story slams and is just very generous in sharing her knowledge and helping other people begin story slams,” Quay said.

“She is going to actually be opening and telling the first story, and then we’re going to be selecting 10 other storytellers,” Dubus said.

Those prepared to share a story will be asked to put their names in a hat for random selection. Each person picked will have five minutes to relate a personal tale on the evening’s theme, “Resolutions Gone Wrong.”

“I feel like 90 percent of the American population has a story to tell on that one,” Dubus said.

“They should have a story that they’re ready to tell,” said Quay, the dean of education at Endicott College in Beverly. “It’s an art, so most people do do some preparation.”

During the evening, audience members will also have the opportunity to get up and tell one-minute stories. But those who simply want to watch and listen are welcome to attend, as well.

“I’m looking forward to hearing the stories,” said Quay, who will time the participants. “The five-minute stories are really exciting, but also the one-minute stories that people can just get up spontaneously and tell in 60 seconds are really fun.”

At the end of the night, two winners will be selected, one chosen by a panel of judges and one chosen by the audience. The judges include Arlene Barnard, who is on The Actors Studio’s board of directors; Jack Welch, a Newburyport resident with an extensive theater background; Fontaine Dubus, owner of The Dance Place in Newburyport; Kimm Wilkinson, artistic director of the Firehouse Center for the Arts in Newburyport; and Charles Van Eman, a veteran actor and director of Senior Readers’ Theater at the Firehouse.

“We really believe in storytelling and the power of stories and have seen firsthand the impact the story slam events can have on people,” Quay said.

If you go

What: Full Moon Story Slam

Theme: “Failed Resolutions”

When: Saturday, 7 p.m.

Where: The Actors Studio of Newburyport, The Tannery Marketplace, Mill 1, Suite 5

How much: $15 at the door

More information: 978-465-1229 or www.newburyportacting.org

Save the dates

Three more Full Moon Story Slams are scheduled this year. All will be held at 7 p.m. at The Actors Studio.

April 12: “Lies Our Parents Told Us”

July 12: “Summer Vacation”

Oct. 4: “Living Outside Social Norms”

Also playing

The North Shore Readers Collaborative will present four short plays this Saturday at 10 a.m. at The Actors Studio. The shows are written by local playwrights Charlie Bradley, Marc Clopton, Leslie Powell and Ron Pullins. Admission is a suggested donation of $7, and a talk-back will follow the performances. For reservations, call 978-465-1229.