Fargo story slam offers stage for true storytelling

by Ellen Rossow

rossowel@mnstate.edu

In recent years, the Fargo-Moorhead area has positioned itself as a community that celebrates the arts. With beautiful museums, theatrics in high schools, colleges and community theatres, first-rate movie theaters, local bands, the Studio Crawl, the FM Opera and much more, it seems the area is well on its way.

However, in the midst of all the paint, music and drama, the self-proclaimed uncreative Laura Egland begged the question, “what about people like me?”

Her answer: “The Tell,” a downtown Fargo story slam competition.  “The Tell” is a place for members of the FM community to express themselves, meet their neighbors, and most importantly, share their stories in a raw, genuine way.

“The art of storytelling and the theatrics that go into it bore me senseless,” Egland said. “But if a normal person wants to tell me one of their stories, I’m in.”

During its initial creation, this idea was the cornerstone of “The Tell.” Now in its third season, it  has proven to be much more.

“The community part of ‘The Tell’ is really the basis of it now,” Egland said. “‘The Tell’ has opened up an understanding of my neighbors and my community in a way that I don’t know I would have encountered.”

Not only does “The Tell” offer an open stage for many, but it serves as a healthy dose of competition as well. At the beginning of each “Tell,” anyone interested in performing puts their name into a hat, and then eight individuals are drawn. Those “tellers” then have their chance to shine in front of a panel of judges. The winner moves on to the Tell-Off in April.

Tellers can lose points for going over their six minute time limit, or gain points for telling a story that has to do with the event’s theme, which  changes each time. The theme can be interpreted by all tellers differently.

All of the performances are videotaped and put on YouTube for anyone to see.  There is also an option for online voting, which will send one of the runners up from this years Tells to the Tell-Off in  April. 

A hater of rules, Egland stressed that there aren’t many when it comes to “The Tell,” but the stories must be true and a Teller can’t “get up there and do whatever from high school.”

With a lack of rules, and a cash bar, it isn’t surprising the stories are generally tailored for a mature audience. Egland specifically said shows include “a lot of blow job jokes and talk about genitals,” but   humor isn’t necessary, in fact all kinds of stories are encouraged.

“It’s the pain that binds us,” Egland said. 

“The Tell” seeks diversity in its audience and its Tellers.

“The more diverse the happier I am,” Egland said, adding how a homeless man once took the stage. 

While “The Tell” is unique to the area, it is not an original idea.

Egland first thought to bring “The Tell” to Fargo while enjoying “The Moth,” a podcast out of New York City that teaches people how to tell stories without all the theatrics.  After listening for years, Egland decided it was time to take her own spin on it.

According to Egland, there are other story slams worldwide and throughout history.

“I like to think in ancient times there were lions involved,” she joked.

The next “Tell” will take place this Thursday in Studio 222 in downtown Fargo. Doors open at 7, but seating is available on a first-come-first-serve basis and all reserved seating has been sold out. Tickets are $5 for college students with an ID or $10 for others. Attendees will be carded at the bar, but do not have to be 21 to enter the event.  For those interested in being placed in the drawing to perform, the theme for this event is “Swing and A Miss.”

Egland encourages those interested to like “The Tell” on Facebook, check out their website at thetellfargo.com and vote for Tellers in the “People’s Choice” tab on the site or via YouTube.   

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