Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A 'Foodie' Story Slam

One of Harvard's quintessential spots is undoubtedly Club Passim, a non-profit organization that serves as a multipurpose venue.  Since 1958, this spot, located in the same space as Veggie Planet,  has been a place where artists of all genres have showcased their talents.  From acoustic music, to poetry, Jazz and folk artists to story slams.  This Monday night, Club Passim hosted a Massmouth story slam and I was asked to attend as a judge.   I had never been to Club Passim, or a story slam, and I don't think I have any officiated in the capacity of a judge... you can just imagine my excitement. 
A little research provided me with some background information not only on what a story slam is, but also on  the whole purpose of the evening at Club Passim.  Partnering up with and promoting The Food Project, another not-for-profit organization, the whole evening generates support and awareness for The Food Project.  By the end of the evening and through the fun and creative little 'minute-stories' shared by the Food Project team, the whole audience was well versed in what this organization stands for, which is engaging young people in sustainable agriculture through various avenues like hands on farming, community outreach and education as well as gaining experience and skills through their hunger hunger relief program.    
But what exactly is a 'story slam'?  It is simply an evening of storytelling usually based around a topic, with a number of individuals stepping up to the mike to present their personal 5-minute story.  With The Food Project in tow as well as me being asked to judged, it should come as no surprise that the topic of the night was 'Foodie'.
As judges, we were presented with ten score cards and told to evaluate according to three criteria:
A) The 'arc' of the story (does it have a clear begining, middle and end)
B) Story Presentation (voice, gesture, expression and clarity)
C) Does the story connect to the theme and topic
All of this had to be met in just 5 minutes...no small feat! 
 Before the slam began and while we were receiving our instructions, we were also treated to dinner at Veggie Planet (sister to Veggie Galaxy) which is known for its delicious vegetarian food, most notably, their pizzas.
 I ordered their soup of the day, a delicious and warming turnip and squash soup.
 I also ordered a small (which was not so small!) pizza with roasted butternut squash, robust goat cheese, caramelized onions and rosemary.  It was all perfect for the blustery day.
Throughout the evening, we heard from 10 different storytellers, with stories ranging from a vegetarian in Siberia to a man's father and his favorite Falafel stand at a Market in Jerusalem.  My highest score, a 9.2 went to David and his story of the significance of food in keeping his family together, the lowest a 5.9, to a story about cheesecake that went unfinished because of a time penalty.  
In the end, we declared the three best storytellers (pictured above), and this time around, the judges' vote was the same as the people's vote (which I always find reassuring).
It was a wonderful experience, I was honored to be a judge and I hope to make it to many more like events.  Follow Club Passim on twitter or facebook to stay tuned in their different offerings.  My favorite part was hearing all the different stories, as well as the tidbits in between.  The space itself is also wonderful and being able to enjoy great entertainment with fantastic, healthful food is such a treat.

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