To be named “Best Storyteller in Philadelphia” is not an easy task. Yet, Steve Clark has won the title, not once, but twice: the Philadelphian has taken home the crown from First Person Arts two consecutive years in a row (2013 and 2014). We had the chance to sit down with the superstar storyteller to learn how he works his magic to charm audiences with his tales (we’ve also got his winning story on video for you).
Ticket: I know this isn’t your first Best Storyteller win–what’s it like to win twice? Why do you think you’ve had the magic touch?
S.C.: Honestly, it took a lot of failures to make this story work. I took 3 or 4 stories I had before that didn’t all work and tried to repackage them, if that makes sense. For this slam, my strategy was to keep the story as entertaining as possible: no slow moments. I tried to jam-pack it with humor and fun (and boy bands).
I think a lot about the structure of the story; I try to play with the limits of a story and experiment with what a story can do, and I think that helps. Last year I set my Grand Slam story to the structure of a super hero legend; this year I used a prologue and an epilogue, and paced the story with late-90’s boy band lyrics. I also think that, for whatever reason, my severe awkwardness is something that gets a great reaction.
Ticket: For our readers who haven’t been to a Story Slam, tell them what the experience is like.
S.C.: First, go! It’s a great community. As Peter Aguero of The Moth says, there’s one story happening on stage, and 100 plus stories happening out in the audience. Each slam contains ten stories based around the same theme, and there are always at least a few where something magical happens: the storyteller and the audience connect and understand each other. Also, there are so many ridiculous, teeth-clenchingly embarrassing moments. Story Slams are a great way to capitalize on the most embarrassing moments of our lives.
Ticket: What’s the juiciest story you’ve ever told in public?
S.C.: People seem to like/cringe the time I brought a date on a carnival ride (the Zipper) and, just as the ride started, went to kiss her and threw up the tiniest bit. Then, lots of quarters flew from my pockets and bounced around the cage we were in.
Ticket: Tell us a little more about First Person Arts and why you go back time and time again to support them.
S.C.: They’ve been really welcoming to me and given me a lot of opportunity to grow as a writer and performer. The staff is incredible; they go out of their way to make everyone feel welcome and to encourage everyone to tell their story.
Ticket: What is the one story you haven’t told yet that you’re dying to tell.
S.C.: Come to First Person Arts this summer! I have a few stories I’m really excited about, but don’t want to give anything away!
Here’s Steve’s winning story at the 2014 Grand Slam: