Fresh Ground Stories is an open-mic event for telling true, personal stories on stage without notes. Each month I choose a different theme and the stories should in some way reflect that theme.
Shows are held once a month at the Olive Way Starbucks on the 3rd Thursday of the month at 7pm. Anyone who wants to tell a story should put their name in the Mr. Coffee carafe and I’ll draw names as we go.
The show is 90 minutes long so I can’t guarantee that everyone will get to tell. If you don’t get your name called you can probably rework your story slightly to fit into another month’s theme. I make the themes broad so you can do that. It’s usually better to attend at least one FGS show first before you tell a story so you understand and kind of stories we’re looking for.
Everyone is welcome to just come and listen, but if you want to tell a story there are some important rules and guidelines you’ll have to follow. The rules are important for a lot of reasons so please don’t ask if you can break them.
The stories we’re looking for are ones that are not only important to you but will be worth sharing with a room full of strangers. The audience is the most important person in the room. If you aren’t sure if your story is appropriate for FGS please email me before the day of the show. Thanks for understanding.
At the bottom of these guidelines, there are links to other shows where your story might be a perfect fit.
1. The story must be true and have happened to you. The story should also mean something to you. We’re looking for stories that tell us something about yourself. Not every story has a moral but there should be something in there that tells us why the story is important to you or how it changed you. It doesn’t have to be serious. Funny stories can be just as meaningful as sad ones. The main thing is that you’re telling a story that will resonate with the audience and not just people who know you.
2. Keep it under 8 minutes. Shorter is better. We run from 7:00-8:30 and I try to end it on time.
3. No notes onstage. We want you to tell the story not recite it.
4. Practice out loud at home or on friends. This is very important. Also, remember to time yourself when you practice. Eight minutes is the absolute max and if you go long other people won’t have a chance to tell their story.
5. Know your last line first. The best advice I ever got for storytelling was to know the last line of your story before you start telling it. The last line should be something that wraps everything up and tells us what you learned or how the experience changed you.
Here is a great short article on what questions you should ask yourself when you’re coming up with a story: https://mailchi.mp/104f63f44a5a/you-should-be-able-to-answer-this-question-before-ever-telling-your-story?e=a4dd06ea14
6. Sharing is more important than performing. Don’t worry about turning your story into a performance. Tell the story as if you were in the living room with friends. Great stories come from a place of humility and vulnerability. That doesn’t mean they can’t be funny and lighthearted. Most of the stories at FGS are very funny but they’re more self-deprecating than what you hear at a comedy show.
7. You need to keep your story clean. We are in a public place and not everyone is there for the show. No stories about sex or genitals, and no cursing or sexual innuendo. I know that stuff is funny but it’s not worth the risk of someone in the coffee shop complaining. There are lots of other places to tell those stories and you can find a link to them at the end of these rules.
Most other topics are fine. We’ve had stories of death, loss, suicide, heartbreak, mental illness, abortion, and human trafficking. All of these topics are fine as long as you tell them with honesty and vulnerability while leaving out your social commentary. Trust me on this. I know it feels good to end your story with a rant but that’s not what this show is for. FGS is where we take the energy we normally spend examining other people’s lives and use it to examine our own.
8. No speeches, opinions, or social commentary. Those are all great things but FGS isn’t the place for them. This isn’t a town hall meeting. If your goal is to get people to do something or change their beliefs about something then this show isn’t right for you. Opinions separate people and stories bring us together. Even if I and everyone else in the room agree with your worldview, FGS isn’t the place for telling us about it. We get enough of that on Facebook, Twitter and everywhere else on the internet. FGS is where we get to take a break from it.
9. Don’t be gross. We all have stories about body fluids and things like that but those aren’t the stories we’re looking for. Please see the links below for places where you can tell those kinds of stories.
10. If you put some thought into it you can tell a story on almost any subject. Choose your words carefully. I know it’s hard but it will be worth it. The audience will appreciate it and more importantly, the manager of the cafe will appreciate it. They let us use their room for free and if we upset their customers we won’t have a show anymore.
10. Stay on the stage. Please don’t leave the stage area and walk through the audience. It works in a comedy club but not at a storytelling show.
11. Don’t plug your own show, website, blog while you’re onstage. If people like your story they’ll talk to you afterward and that’s when you can give them that information.
12. Get there early to put your name in the Mr. Coffee Carafe. Use a white slip if you’ve told at FGS before or a yellow slip if you’re a first-timer.
13. Just because something isn’t listed in the rules doesn’t mean it’s ok for you to do. I have the final say in how the show is run and what I allow on stage. I hate to write this last rule but every now and then someone wants to argue over how I run the show so I finally had to write this stuff down in black and white. If you’re unhappy with any of these rules I will encourage you to attend one of the other wonderful storytelling shows in the area. Thanks for your cooperation.
Links to other shows or workshops in the area where you can tell stories: