the living art of storytelling in Massachusetts
The Daily Item
Classical students speak from the soul
Originally Published on Wednesday, January 11, 2012 By Sarah Mupo / The Daily Item
LYNN — After sharing short, personal anecdotes in a school competition, four Lynn Classical High School seniors will perform in a regional storytelling competition in Boston later this year.
Members of massmouth, a Massachusetts storytelling organization, have partnered with the high school for the second year in a row to put on a “story slam,” where students tell three-minute stories about an event or aspect of their lives.
The two winners of the Dec. 19 competition Varvarra Valentin, 18, and Oscar Mercado, 17 and the two runners-up Calvin Ebieshuwa, 18, and Jose Olivares, 17 will head to massmouth’s StoriesLive high school story slam at the Boston Public Library in April.
Two Classical students won the first prize and audience choice awards at the regional competition last year, and received $2,500 in scholarship money.
“We’re hoping for something similar this time around,” said English teacher Jerry Burke.
Representatives from the arts group spent four days with each of the nine senior English classes, before the competition, holding workshops for the students to put together their stories.
Two or three seniors from each class were selected to perform in front of their peers at the school competition. They were judged by a panel of massmouth members, faculty and students.
Valentin, whose story was about her hair weave, was also asked by massmouth co-founder Norah Dooley to take the stage at the arts group’s First Night event in Boston on New Year’s Eve.
“I was nervous because I didn’t know if the audience would relate to my story,” Valentin said, adding that she ended up getting laughs from the crowd.
Ebieshuwa said his communication skills as football team captain helped him present his story about his first job working at Burger King.
“I never thought I’d be a winner,” he said. “I just thought I’d make people laugh. But it was mad fun.”
The mentoring from massmouth, Ebieshuwa said, improved his public speaking skills and taught him how to change his tone of voice depending on the words in his story.
For Mercado, his story of his parents’ divorce and his suicide attempt proved difficult to share with his classmates.
“It was really hard for me, especially because I had stage fright,” he said.
English teacher Patty Frey organized the initial relationship with the arts organization through her friend, Tony Toledo, a storyteller on the North Shore. Frey said Toledo told her that Dooley and massmouth manager Nicolette Nordin Heavey were looking to get involved in schools. Since then, there has been a lot of student interest in the story slam, Frey said, especially because Classical will be the defending champion in the upcoming regionals.
The benefit of introducing the story slam into the senior English classes, Frey said, is that students can express themselves in a fresh way.
“The best thing is these stories that are shared are personal and intimate, and it gives a new perspective of the student,” she said.
Sarah Mupo can be reached at email@example.com.