“And this cat is dead and it’s frozen and its claws are in the carpet. It’s like a cat popsicle. You could hold it by its tail and lick it if you wanted to,” says Zach Johnson, the winner of the January edition of The Tell for his telling of his Cat’s Tale. He stands on the stage at Studio 222, a fine establishment for a quaint and cozy audience. The setting is intimate, lighting is ideal, atmosphere is light and stories are being told. The question of the night: “Are you telling?”
And so goes the third show of The Tell, which focused on the theme: There’s A First Time for Everything. The Tell is a community story slam competition held in downtown Fargo. Similar to NPR’s The Moth, The Tell’s mission is to bring storytellers of all backgrounds, abilities, and ages to the stage. The Tell founder Laura Egland says, “The thing about storytelling from real people is that while, sure, it’s performance–it’s also something deep and meaningful. When someone gets in front of the mic and open up, you don’t know–they don’t know–if it’s going to be beautiful or if it’s going to be a train wreck. Even well done, some stories are inspirational and hilarious and make you feel fantastic, while others can be horrifying, and really make you look inside yourself. It’s real life, retold.”
Attendees voluntarily submit their name in a hat with a total of ten names being drawn throughout the evening. A panel of three judges then votes on an overall winner for the evening that advances to “The Tell Off” held in April. Stories must be unscripted, prop-free, and true all while being under six minutes.
So far in, The Tell’s shows have proven to only get better each month. Expect an ab workout, bring a tissue, and get ready to enjoy beautifully crafted narratives filled with true Midwest character. A central unification of raw, real, everyday life weaves its way throughout the cozy setting of each month’s evening. A combination of stories from a collection of backgrounds is a reminder of how uniquely different lives can be, while still being intertwined in so many ways.
Regardless of who is in the audience, where they have come from, or where they were going after the show ended, there is a part of each storyteller’s anecdote that one could relate to. Every storyteller speaks with a different voice, literally and figuratively. Some speak with a direct comedic effect which is met with much audience approval while others deliver with a more poet, lyrical approach and punch lines that resonate long after they have left the stage.
Whether chuckling to themselves as they put together the pieces of a nostalgic memory or wiping back tears and speaking with a quivering inflection, what is most humbling is the amount of conviction that each story is told with as speakers recall details of particularly memorable episodes in their life. It always ends up being a truly enjoyable outing and one of those occasions that encourages the celebration of life’s unforgettable moments. It pulls a room of initial strangers together and continues to bring them back together next month and the months to follow as true “Tell” friends.
With that being said, be a listener or maybe even a storyteller at The Tell’s next event: Wednesday, February 6th (tomorrow) at 7pm, Studio 222, 222 Broadway, Fargo, ND. Tomorrow night’s theme is “love.” But know, since the premiere show, the event has only increased in popularity and audience size. The doors opened at 6:30pm last month and was at standing room only by 6:50, so come early for a good seat and some pleasant company!
Check out The Tell’s Facebook page for past months’ narratives and winners of each event.