Arts Interview: Story Time

A Classic Form Gets A Modern Update Via Duke City Story Slam

Maggie Grimason
5 min read
Story Time
The next Slam happens on Oct. 25 with the theme “Yikes!” (Courtesy of Duke City Story Slam)
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Right when he moved back to New Mexico, Nash Jones connected with Storytellers of New Mexico and began developing the idea of creating a local story slam. After a few months of the planning, the Slam found a home at Red Door Brewing, the first one took place in March, and has been growing ever since.

Held every fourth Thursday of the month, October’s lands on Oct. 25 and will bring to the stage lore on the theme of “Yikes!” in anticipation of Halloween, which will follow on the heels of the Story Slam. Ahead of the event, Duke City Story Slam director Nash Jones shared the inspiration and the importance of the series.

Alibi: When and why did you all decide to start the Duke City Story Slam?

Jones: I moved back to Albuquerque, my hometown, in April of 2017 after 11 years away living in Oakland, Calif., and Portland, Ore., and realized that, while there was a storytelling community in town, there wasn’t a story slam, which was one of my favorite kind of events happening in these other cities. … I knew this was the kind of creative community event that would do well here once people caught on, and I was excited to bring what I’d learned … in these other cities back to my hometown and make it happen here.

What need did you see?

While there were a couple of other great personal storytelling events happening in town, and still are, they weren’t slams, which is a unique event structure. Popularized by The Moth, story slams have a playfully competitive structure that gives them a lot of energy and raises the stakes a bit, while remaining incredibly accessible to folks who have never told a story on stage before and providing opportunities for improvement over time.

What is the importance of oral storytelling today?

Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools we have available to us to build empathy and understanding across difference. The best way we can learn about others’ experiences, really work to understand each other and show up for individuals and communities we’re not a part of, is by listening to their stories. In an era when we are communicating more and more online, which can so often be a space void of listening and empathy and authentic connection, there’s something really powerful and healing about the face-to-face human connection that storytelling provides. Also, we are so inundated with fast, loud, flashy entertainment on screens these days that storytelling, being slow, long-form, live and low-tech, is a really unique form of entertainment that really feeds a craving that so many of us have, whether we realize we have it or not.

What kind of stories can visitors expect to hear?

People can expect to hear true stories from the lives of people here in our community. Some stories are funny, some are inspiring, some have been powerful and even heart wrenching. At nearly every event there is both laughter and tears throughout. We set a theme and people tell stories that relate to that theme, which can span from big, life changing experiences, to everyday interactions that made an impact on them. The event has both Featured Tellers, who tell 10 minute stories they’ve crafted and rehearsed beforehand, and Open Mic Tellers who tell 5 minute stories that may or may not have prepared beforehand. Some of the best Open Mic-ers we’ve had just happened to be at Red Door and found out what was going on and put their name in the hat to tell a story. Everyone has a story to tell!

What do you hope others might learn?

Often I’ll hear, “I wish I had a story to tell … nothing interesting has ever happened to me,” but that’s just not true! It’s all in the way you tell the story—even an everyday experience can be built into a story that people want to hear. I offer storycrafting support to the Featured Tellers each month so that the slam is accessible to people who have never told a story live on stage before. So, if the thought of telling a story at the slam makes you nervous, know that you can do it, and I can help you feel confident up there and proud of your story. I also hope people learn about others’ experiences and identities and that it promotes empathy and understanding in a time when we need that so badly.

Head to Red Door on Thursday, Oct. 25 at 7pm ready to listen or share. Regardless, bring $2 to $5 for the sliding scale entrance fee. In the meantime, head to Instagram to filter stories into your feed @dukecitystoryslam, or connect with this event and more hosted by Storytellers of New Mexico on Facebook (@storytellersofnewmexico).
Story Time

“Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools we have,” explains Duke City Story Slam founder Nash Jones

Story Time

Duke City Story Slam packs Red Door Brewing every fourth Thursday of the month

Courtesy of Duke City Story Slam

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