5 tips for telling a great tale at Stoop Storytelling

The Baltimore Sun
5 tips for telling a great tale at Stoop Storytelling

Story time isn't always just for kids.

Jessica Henkin, 40, started the Stoop Storytelling Series with her friend Laura Wexler in 2006. For each show, seven "regular folks" get up on stage and tell a seven-minute story based on a chosen theme. The first show was themed "Failure," just in case it was a flop. Nine years later, the series has gained a loyal audience and a lot of laughs along the way. Stoop Storytelling's mainstage series launches its season at 8 p.m. Monday at Center Stage (stoopstorytelling.org).

Before the Stoop stories begin, Henkin told us her top five tips for telling a great story.

Be specific

We have learned that it helps to be very specific in your story. Talk about a specific point in time as opposed to a series of little anecdotes, to really kind of get yourself in the moment.

Make it matter

It should matter to you. … And if you're telling the story, it's important to kind of get a sense from the people listening of how they're reacting to it and to tweak appropriately.

It should be about you

This is the main thing that we're really about. … You're the protagonist. It's just kind of less interesting, we find, for folks to hear stories secondhand. So as opposed to a story about how your grandma came to America, [tell] how you came to America, or if that doesn't fit for you, then how you did something. We're pretty passionate about that. So we've had people that we didn't book because they did have interesting stories, but for us, what we love is to hear it firsthand, from the horse's mouth.

Tell the truth

We can't fact-check the stories, so we just trust that what people are saying is the truth, but we find that the more truthful you are emotionally when telling the story, the more the audience is with you. … [It] has certainly surprised some folks who were up there telling a story that they felt like it was making them really vulnerable, and they didn't realize that it was so relatable, and it was so honest and so human, that the reaction is to laugh. That said, we tend to have lots of fun drinkers at our shows, so people tend to laugh as a result of that too.

Which brought her to the final tip:

Don't be drunk

We book you by talking to you and then we ask you to come and basically workshop your story with the other people that are going to be telling a story the night-of, and that's Sunday at noon. So most of the time, those people are sober. Then when you get to the event, if you end up being tanked, Laura and I know very clearly that there's a big difference in the story that they told Sunday at noon and the evening at 9 o'clock, and it's usually the alcohol. There can be a lot of artists and comedians who like to be a little bit buzzed. You have to really walk that line so you're not too buzzed.

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