by Carolyn Stearns
There was a long hushed pause before a young woman began to speak; her story spilled out. She heard strange voices, muffled and distant, the eerie lights coming in the windows, the glow of eyes outside peeking in, the child in the bed trembles at the alien invasion. There were no aliens, it was a mask of imagination held up to hide the reality of police peering into the house for the parent on a drinking binge. This is real life, as told in a story slam format, a place where freedom of speech is releasing the story held in for so long.
Campus Slammer is a powerful stage for the stories Connecticut college students are ready to share. If there were no other reason than to give a place to tell such a story, we should do this, but there are many reasons. The creation of Campus Slammer 3 seasons ago was spurred by a desire to reach out to this demographic. The board of directors of Connecticut Storytelling Center www.connstorycenter.org was interested in building new audience, reaching into new venues and trying out the hot new slam format. A visit to Massmouth in Boston showed the formula for success. The quandary was the four W’s: who, what, when, where.
Connecticut has a multitude of colleges ranging from the small community college to Ivy League. Each campus is home to students of an infinite variety, each with a story to tell. Like many states, Connecticut spends a large portion of each spring engrossed with the inter-collegiate rivalry of basketball. Why not build a program that gives student wordsmiths the same opportunity to represent their school? From that marriage of thought a plan developed and the first season was carried out on six campuses in the state.
Every participant in Campus Slammer is invited to attend the Connecticut Storytelling Festival for free. We want young people at our festival and this is how we have made a way to entice them in. Storytelling needs to develop a young audience that will carry on our well established tradition. The Campus Slammer participants may fully partake of the workshops and performances. This year the CT Storytelling Festival will be held on April 26-27, 2013 at Conn College in New London, CT. Each of our college students is soon to enter the work force and this introduction to storytelling will travel with them from our slams and festival to every corner of the earth.
The personal story shared in the slam format is a singular genre in the expansive world of storytelling. In order to quickly show our participants the infinite variety of story, we give out prize bags with CD’s and books donated by storytellers. They are sure to connect with folk and fairy tales, healing stories and more as they look and listen beyond the slam style story.
The world of storytelling needs to build a relationship with college professors, and Campus Slammer is one such opportunity to connect with the educational system to insure that storytelling is incorporated into class curriculums and recognized as an art form. This relationship will continue to foster understanding of storytelling and how it can connect to curricular areas. A working partner on college campuses is an opportunity to expand with other programs in the future. The professors are given an avenue to the resources of the Connecticut Storytelling Center community.
It takes time to grow relationships and connect with college professors or campus organizations to host the Campus Slammer. To introduce the format to communities with multiple colleges we have added open call Campus Slammers held in two communities this year. One slam is in an improv theatre setting and the other in a coffee shop. Each will take more development and outreach to grow and attract its own in-house event. Each of these venues is then a tool to expanding CT storytelling into new areas and a way to initiate new listeners.
Campus Slammer is like a toddler, able to move forward with tentative steps growing and improving with each day or event. There is room for significant growth when you assess the list of colleges in the state. There is tremendous potential to move beyond the boundaries of Connecticut and develop a larger Campus Slammer with a rivalry excitement to compare to the basketball Sweet 16. Imagine a finals event bringing colleges from far and wide together. That is a story I’d like to hear.
The Connecticut Storytelling Center is growing a vibrant future for storytelling. If you would like to learn more, visit the Campus Slammer page at www.connstorycenter.org/campusslammer. If you would like to make a donation of product for student prizes, they can be shipped to the center or brought to the CT Storytelling Festival on April 26-27.
Carolyn Stearns is a Connecticut storyteller.She is board member at the Connecticut Storytelling Center, serves LANES on their slam committee, and is the CT liaison to NSN. Carolyn is Chair of Campus Slammer, the CT inter-collegiate story slam movement. It is no surprise that Carolyn works with youth after a tenure of 33 years as a 4-H volunteer and more than 20 years coaching FFA (Future Farmers of America) horse judging, oral reasons and public speaking students. Carolyn lives in Mansfield, CT and is currently working part time in education and in pursuit of her career in storytelling. Historical stories are Carolyn’s favorites to tell.