Even if you’re the most boring person on earth, you have a story to tell. In fact, being the most boring person on earth has the makings of a great story.
That’s why Mimi Nguyen started Story Club Minneapolis, one of the more recent shows to pop up on the Twin Cities’ “live lit” scene.
“If someone said to me, ‘I don't think that I have a story to tell,’ I would say, ‘Well, that in itself is a story. ... That's interesting and sad. Let's talk about it," she said.
Nguyen was involved with the original Story Club, founded in Chicago in 2009. After moving to Minneapolis, she created the first Story Club franchise outside of Chicago this summer. A few months later, she produced and hosted the club’s first show at Bryant Lake Bowl. Their second show is Oct. 10.
“I feel like we tell stories every day anyway. But we don't reach as many people as we should to explain the human experience,” she said. “There's something about understanding and relating to other people that you can only do if they tell you what happened. … It’s about empathy.”
Club house rules
Minneapolis already offers a decent variety of live lit and spoken word events, but none are quite like Story Club.
It’s not a free-for-all like “Balls Cabaret” at the Southern Theater, so don’t show up with your juggling pins.
And unlike the slam poetry- and fiction-based “Word Ninjas” and “Story Slam” at Kieran’s Irish Pub, Story Club requires you to tell a true, first-person narrative.
There also isn’t any scoring, as there is at “The Moth” at Amsterdam Bar and Hall. Nguyen said Story Club can be a good place for people to test out stories for the first time without fearing the judges.
But like most, if not all, live lit events, Story Club has a time limit. Featured performers get a five- to 10-minute window; open mic gets five to eight.
The show includes a mix of pre-selected performers and random audience members.
Nguyen does a little talent scouting at other shows or draws from the live lit community to find three experienced performers to carry the evening. Anyone else who wants to perform can drop their name in a hat at the show and hope they’re one of the three drawings.
This format is different from completely curated shows like “Rockstar Storytellers” at Bryant Lake Bowl, where the audience can only participate as an audience.
Nguyen said she hopes the variety of performances will ensure that the audience has a good time, even if some of the open mic stories fall a little flat.
If the show inspires you, follow these steps to get your own big moment on stage.
Ten steps to storytelling success
1. Focus on the little things. It’s great if you have an epic tale. But if not, start looking for inspiration in everyday life.
“Even if it’s like, ‘I walked out of the bathroom with toilet paper on the back of my heel.’ There's something about that that everyone can relate to,” Nguyen said. “Of course it can't just be a two-sentence story like, ‘And then I left.’ It's about why it’s embarrassing.”
2. Jot it down. Nguyen said she has a note on her cellphone where she keeps track of the little things she notices throughout her day.
3. Set a goal. Some shows have a semi-random theme, like “Horrified” or “Tough Luck,” that broadly defines the type of story performers should present. Others are unrestrained. Aim for an event that works best for your story.
4. Start writing. Nguyen said she rarely writes the beginning of the story first. If you feel stuck, she suggests writing segments and piecing them together later.
5. Keep it short. An eight-minute story is about four pages, double-spaced.
6. Practice. Story Club featured performers get two months to polish their stories beforehand. They even workshop their piece with Nguyen at her apartment a week before the big night. “Practice at home in your underwear in front of your kitty or your puppy,” Nguyen said.
7. GO! “A lot of people lose their nerve on the way to the show and don't show up, or just sit there and hide their little piece of paper in their pocket,” Nguyen said. “It does take guts to get on the stage. ... It's like going to the gym. The hardest part is just leaving the house.”
8. Be confident. “The audience is on your side. The only time the audience doesn't like something is when a judge gives a bad score. There's a lot of love. It’s a really great, safe space,” Nguyen said.
9. Make eye contact and enunciate. “It makes a huge difference,” Nguyen said. “Even if you're looking at the page, just look up at the audience every once in a while.”
10. Have fun.
What: Story Club Minneapolis
Where: Bryant Lake Bowl, 810 Lake St. W., Minneapolis
When: 7 p.m. open mic, sign-up at 6:30 p.m.; every second Thursday of the month