Fresh Ground Stories is an open-mic event for telling true, personal stories on stage at Roy Street Coffee & Tea. Each month we choose a different theme and the stories should in some way reflect the theme.
Shows are scheduled once a month, hosted at Roy St Coffee and Tea on the 4th Thursday of the month at 7pm (exceptions – Nov and December – when we will go on 2nd Thursday to avoid Thanksgiving and Christmas).
We hope you plan on bring a story – all potential storytellers will put their name in a hat and we draw names as we go.
The show is about 90 minutes so we can’t guarantee that everyone will get to share. But if you don’t get to tell your story for one theme you can probably rework it into another. Themes will be broad.
Everyone is welcome to just come and listen, but if you want to tell a story (and I hope you do) here’s what you need to know.
1. Story must be true and have happened to you. Also, the story should 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 and maybe how its shaped your life or your beliefs about something. It doesn’t have to be serious. Funny stories can be just as meaningful as sad ones.
2. Keep it under 8 minutes. Shorter is better so we can get more people onstage. We run from 7:00-8:30 and I try to end it on time.
3. No notes onstage. Trust me, it’s always better to tell the story naturally. Practice in your living room, the car, the bathroom, wherever. Tell it to friends and family, or that guy on the bus. Whatever it takes to remember it.
4. A story needs a beginning, middle and an end. Sometimes I think I have a story but it turns out it’s just a collection of memories and a feeling. I usually figure this out when I practice out loud. There’s something about practicing out loud that makes it easier to tell when something isn’t working or doesn’t make sense.
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 gives the story meaning.
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. Dirty words and subject matter. 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 double entendres. I know all 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 if you do a little Googling you will find a place where you can tell them. Most other topics are fine. We’ve had stories of death, loss, suicide, heartbreak, mental illness, terminal illness, etc. All of these topics are fine as long as you tell them with honesty, vulnerability and humility.
8. No rants, speeches or religious testimony. Those are all great things but FGS isn’t the place for them. If your goal is to get people to do something (tear down the government, join a church, boycott Lithuanian walnuts, etc) then our show isn’t right for you.
9. If you put some thought into it you can tell a story about almost any subject. Choose your words carefully. I know it’s harder but it will be worth it. The audience will appreciate it and more importantly Roy Street Coffee will appreciate it. They let us use their room for free and if we offend 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.
12. Get there early to put your name in the Mr. Coffee Carafe if you’ve told at FGS before or in the sweet smelling tea tin (cinnamon spice!) if you’re a first-timer. There’s another tea tin for folks that arrive after 7:00 or get inspired during the show to tell a story. If I have time I’ll pull names out of that tin. I hope that all makes sense. I may have just confused everyone. It’ll be clear when I do it at the show.
I can’t make a rule about everything so if have any questions or you’re wondering if your story is appropriate send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or come up to me before the show and ask me about it.