March 10, 2008

"We Rock Stories. We Rock Them Hard."

How come Minneapolis/St. Paul has all the cool kids? This past weekend in the Twin Cities you could hear both the O.G. storytellers, and the new kids on the block:

http://www.rockstarstorytellers.com
http://www.myspace.com/rockstarstorytellers

The alt-weekly City Pages says:
Let's face it—storytelling may be the primordial art form, born at the dawn of language. However, modern performance telling, with its small but dedicated, heavily middle-aged audience, has just never managed the same level of cool as rock 'n' roll. But this year, a group of 10 younger local performance artists banded together to take back some of the cultural cachet storytelling deserves. Optimistically calling themselves Rockstar Storytellers, they come to the stage from a multiplicity of backgrounds, from mime to radio monologue to traditional theater to slam poetry to competitive speech. Laden with Fringe Festival credentials, the cast promises to not just twiddle your emotional dial, but to take a monkey wrench to your presuppositions about what storytelling should be.

Go monkey wrench!

Exclusive interview later this month.

11 comments:

Sean said...

Interesting read. So, do these young people just fray it out and tell only personal stories or is there some world myths in this mix? Storytellers or Stand Up Comedians ala my recent rant on personal tales? I am eager to read more/hear more of your interview with them.

Gawd, I am SO frustrated by how Fray was at SxSW. These younin's would probably just kill there.

Curt said...

Hi Tim, hi Sean! Thanks for the mention, here's a more recent blurb (also from the City Pages culture blog):

"This weekend there's nary a reason to go without sweet storytelling love... The Rockstar Storytellers, as a group, sport a polished, radio-style storytelling, dripping with coffee-and-cigarette-soaked hipster irony--a reflection of their backgrounds doing Fringe, non-storytelling spoken word, and in some cases, radio itself."

Though we giggled at the claim of becoming an "institution" (we had put on a whopping THREE shows thus far at time of that blogification, now four), I think we're definitely accomplishing one goal, to get more spoken word storytelling out there and get more people familiar with and interested in the discipline. I've performed at Northstar events and have great affection for them as well. I never fail to be amazed at how absolutely gifted Minneapolis is with its amazing storytelling and spoken word community. I've done a lot of travelling for my day job and have always tried to catch open mics and the like wherever I've found myself, and I've not found a more welcoming community with more (and more regular) opportunities to see great storytelling. Plus it doesn't hurt we've got our Kevin Kling, our Garrison Keillor, our Nancy Donoval, our Dorothy Cleveland, our Tom Cassidy, our Amy Salloway...

To answer Sean's question, yes, all of the Rockstars' stories are personal / memoir as opposed to myths or folk tales. We come from a wide variety of backgrounds, as diverse as competitive speech and improv comedy and slam poetry and even mime/bouffon, but Rockstars is based on (and showcases) that common thread of the personal story. I only participated in a Fray once (at least the "official" Fray Day that is) and that seemed like most folks were telling off the cuff, whereas we're putting together shows of pre-selected prepared work -- and many of us are reading written work (hence the spoken word prefix). We perform five to a show with a host, whose bits in-between are undeniably closer to stand-up, but the feature stories are just that, and are knit around a common theme each performance (March was religion, February was lost love, January was things we hide, etc etc).

If anybody gets the opportunity to find themselves in the Twin Cities during early August, the Fringe Festival is the right place at the right time to really feast on what the Minneapolis storytelling community has to offer. My favorite week every year, hands down.

Curt said...

Erm, sorry for being utterly redundant, I was liberally quoting our press release boilerplate which was liberally quoted by the City Pages blogger who was quoted in Tim's original post. So you already knew most of that. :)

Paula said...

Just wanted to thank Curt for mentioning the fact that he's performed with Northstar and has great affection for them. We love you too, Curt.

Regarding the original post, I must admit to being somewhat bemused at being dismissed as "O.G." My last story was about coming home with a prescription for Viagra on Valentine's Day, and having no one to use it with but myself. (Worked just fine, by the way.) I feel neither old nor guarded.

In recent years Northstar has worked very hard to support crossover artists, spoken word and experimental storytelling, and will continue to do so. phillip low, one of the Rockstars, was featured in our Tellabration! concert in November. In fact the author of the City Pages article quoted here, Ward Rubrecht - who happens to be the son of an O.G. storyteller - shows up monthly at our open mike and tries out new material. The hard work it takes to make such opportunities available for anyone is what allows artists the opportunity to develop into people who can rock stories, and is part of what makes the Twin Cities the vibrant, creative and generous community it is.

Paula Nancarrow
Prez, NSL

Curt said...

Paula -- I hope to hear that story in full! And maybe this speaks to my "hipster" status (which I also found laughable I'm the most grandmotherly 28-year-old male one will ever meet) but I didn't read "O.G." as old guard, I read it as Original Gangstas!

Paula said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paula said...

Curt you can be my hipster grandma any day. Paula

Tim said...

"O.G." wasn't meant to be a dismissal, but to acknowledge the group that had been around longer (and yes, I meant "original gangsta."

That being said, in terms of street cred, pizazz, and just plain panance, "Rockstar Storytellers" has it all over "Northstar Storytelling League."

Amy said...

Curt -- thanks for that response. Now all I have to say is "what he said".
Paula -- DAMN I want to hear that story! Whatever event we're both at next, I am making you talk...
-- Amy Salloway

Amy said...

Oh, also, in response to Sean: Sean, just so you know, "young people", as a description of the Rockstars, is being used VERY loosely. Uh. near-metaphorically. Two of us in the group (20%) are pretty much the same age as Tim, three are right around 30, four are in their later 20's and one is, indeed, sort of a child prodigy. So, there is a range. :-) However, we are all young in heart, spirit and attitude. :-)

Sean said...

All of us under 50 in the storytelling world are younglings. LOL.