This weekend, WNEP Theater held the 13th Annual SKALD Storytelling Competition and it was extraordinary.
First, a bit of history.
The SKALD was conceived of thirteen years ago as a fundraiser. A one-shot event that would be A) fun and B) profitable. It was the former and definitely not the latter. We held the first one in the Bailiwick Studio theater (now Theatre Wit’s north stage) and I comp’d so many people, we ended up losing money on the venture. But none of cared about the money. It was SO fun that we determined that we’d do it every year.
For the first 6 years, we rented venues around the city (or used our brief stint in Boys Town with the WNEP space) and held our contest. It was always amazing and always fun. Then the fabulous DCA picked us up. We performed SKALDs 7 – 12 in the Studio Theater at the Chicago Cultural Center and added the MAELSTROM (improvised stories). We began doing classes during the week for free. One year, we added a panel discussion from such notable storytellers as Marc Smith. Then the DCA started to contract. Money was the issue. City politics was the issue.
Sadly, the DCA was taken over by the Department of Tourism and we were cut loose. We didn’t bring in enough revenue.
In the meantime, however, the storytelling community exploded. The Moth, This Much is True, Essay Fiesta, Story Lab, Story Club, Write Club, The Paper Machete, Grown Folk Tales, Here’s the Story – you couldn’t walk out of your house and not be confronted with passionate people telling stories of love, loss, victories and defeats. Most are free (or, at least, cost less to attend than a movie). It will be the monetization of the community that will diminish it.
This year, we decided to go to Strawdog – a sort “home away from home” for many of our latest stuff (including the ongoing Joe Janes series) – and it was like the first. Lots of fun, lost a few sheckles, incredible stories.
Friday was the MAELSTROM. A tiny crowd, six incredible improvising storytellers and Deanna Moffitt walked away with $100.00 in cash and the title.
Saturday was the SKALD and it was AWESOME. Steve Edwards (WBEZ’s The Afternoon Shift) hosted and told the audience about how stories are necessary for humans to exist. That we can NOT not hear and process stories. And the stories were funny and heartbreaking and inspiring and beautiful. Jamie Buell walked away with $150.00 and the title.
From all of us at WNEP Theater – thank you. Thanks to the judges (Tyler James Greene, Ray Teresi, and the inimitable Vanessa Harris); thanks to the audiences; thanks to the storytellers. Too much fun. Cannot wait until next year.