Local Spotlight: Behind the Lehigh Valley Story Slam
There is no backdrop like that of an inviting Irish pub to hear a compelling story while enjoying a tall, frosty pint. Evidently, the founders of Lehigh Valley Story Slam agree.
Lehigh Valley Story Slam, in the middle of its debut season, emanates monthly from McCarthy’s Red Stag Pub and Whiskey Bar on the corner of Main & Market streets in Bethlehem. The Story Slam invites members of the community to gather at the Red Stag Pub and publicly share stories centered on a particular, variable theme.
“I was looking for a venue, and someone from the Lehigh Valley Storytelling Guild suggested the Red Stag Pub. I came here and (Red Stag Pub owner) Neville Gardner was having lunch,” said Dennis Boyne, co-founder of Lehigh Valley Story Slam. “I told him about three sentences, and he said, ‘Yes, we’ll do it.’ It’s a great partnership; he’s a great guy who tells a wonderful story, and we’re very happy here.”
Boyne has teamed up with Jim Breslin, organizer of Story Slams in West Chester and Lancaster, to bring the event to the Lehigh Valley. The two met as participants at a Story Slam event in Scranton and became fast friends.
How Lehigh Valley Story Slam Works
Storytellers have five minutes each to tell their stories, which are judged by a pre-selected panel of community members and friends of the organization. Scores are tallied after each participant has told his or her story, with a winner crowned with the Story Slam’s “Tacky Trophy” and the right to participate in November’s Grand Slam. The winning story from each month, alongside other notables, is posted on YouTube, with three or four included in the Story Slam’s monthly podcast on Podbean.
Archiving the stories gives participants a chance to share them with family and friends, while helping spread the word of the Story Slam.
“When the videos go up the next day, people share them with their friends,” Breslin said. “Then, other people say, ‘That sounds interesting. I think I’d like to do that.’”
Although the stories must fit the theme of the evening – for July, the theme was “First Love,” – each theme is left open to interpretation, giving those sharing an element of creative freedom.
“I love the range and diversity of the stories,” Breslin said. “Tonight, we heard about first love from all different angles. That’s what I really enjoy; the rollercoaster of the night is really interesting.”
Moreover, the Story Slam is an open, judgment-free way for Lehigh Valley residents to come together and get to know the community around them. This friendly atmosphere has resonated with many Story Slam attendees, who return, month after month, to tell their stories and enjoy those told by others.
The above combines to make Boyne optimistic that Lehigh Valley Story Slam’s early success will carry on, and that it is just the beginning of a grand new tradition in the heart of Historic Bethlehem.
“The Lehigh Valley is really an interesting place,” Boyne said. “It’s full of art and full of people who are enjoying life, and I think it’s going to catch on. People want to hear and tell good stories. I think it’s going to be around for a good, long time.”