Montclair Film StorySLAM
Saturday, Feb. 17, 7:30 p.m.
To participate as a storyteller with a five-minute story around the evening’s theme, pre-register by purchasing a “Storyteller” ticket. Pre-registered “Storyteller” ticket holder’s names will be picked out of a hat.
Cinema505, 505 Bloomfield Ave.
Future events: March 18. high school storytellers; March 24.
By GWEN OREL
For some, it was the first time.
Others were old hands.
But for Montclair Film, the first StorySLAM, held on Saturday, Jan. 28 at Cinema505, was the first event of its kind.
So it made sense for the series to kick off with the theme “My First Time.”
And although this was the first juried five-minute story slam held in town, the event sold out. A line waited to get in.
The event is based on such popular storytelling series as The Moth in New York City.
Tom Hall, artistic director of the film festival, introduced the evening. Film, Hall said, is a way of telling stories.
A three-member jury consisted of Montclair bestselling author Christina Baker Kline (“Orphan Train;” “A Piece of the World”); Watchung Booksellers’ Margot Sage-EL and Jodi Rudoren, an editor for The New York Times.
Comic Risa Barash hosted the night, commenting on each story, and the New York City duo The Tall Pines played a short set beforehand. Connie Lynn Petruk sings and plays drums on an alligator suitcase, while Christmas Davis plays guitar and sings.
The Tall Pines also played, softly at first, then loudly, when storytellers went over their time.
Most of the stories were comic, but winners had to distinguish themselves from what Rudoren described as a “stand-up routine.” A story needed to have more than a combination of jokes.
Montclair Film volunteer Jennifer Chaky told a funny story about being a volunteer at the TriBeCa Film Festival, and being wildly over her head. Then she told a lost patron where to go: it was Robert De Niro.
Montclair Film board member Luke Parker Bowles told of a ski trip he was sent on by his parents, insisting that the English do show love, despite going to boarding school at age 7 — prompting “awws” from the audience.
An audience favorite was Montclair’s Angela Dohrmann, who talked about her first time going to London, and how she’d heard a rumor there were no tampons there — so packed a suitcase full of them.
Naturally, it broke open at the airport.
Unfortunately, Dohrmann did not finish in time, so was not eligible for an award.
Gary Foreman of South Orange took third place with a story about his first time encountering a card sharp during a summer working in New York City.
Liz Samuel of Montclair took second place with her story about going snowmobiling for the
first time, and trying to be a “cool mom.” Every time Samuel repeated the phrase “cool mom,” the audience reacted.
Samuel said it was her first time doing a story slam, but listens to The Moth, and thought she’d like to do something like that.
Being a writer and an actress, she said, “I think of myself as a storyteller, but had never told a story in that way.”
She takes improv at Montclair Film and her film, “Momtress,” which she wrote/produced and starred in, was in MFF last year.
She has a web series coming out based on that film.
Samuel said, “I was so excited that I finished the story in time: to place was a total bonus. It was so much fun to be a part of.
“It was really cool to tell this story in front of such an amazing community and group.” She had no idea who would come, and thought the crowd was made up of people she’d want to hang out with.
She didn’t even invite her husband, she said, adding: “I literally live that mantra every day. ‘I’m a cool mom, right? I’m a fun mom.’”
But the winner, Stella Cook, told a story that had only moments of humor.
It was a serious story about Cook’s first time encountering the possibility of untimely death, when her newborn baby developed an infection and had to stay in the hospital for months.
The story had many in the audience holding their breaths. At times, Cook had to pause to compose herself. There were also moments of humor: she talked about deciding to break hospital rules and walk around without shoes.
When the audience learned that the baby lived — and is now a year old — you could hear the seat cushions move as the audience relaxed.
Judge Christina Baker Kline said she loved the story because it was “an incredibly memorable story about an emotional subject that the author handled with humor and insight and smarts.”
Kline said she loved story slams, because they gave people a chance to hear about other lives, and “get glimpses that they would never otherwise get.”