At Kieran’s Irish Pub, storytellers pull the heartstrings of audience members

On Tuesday, storytellers gathered for the October edition of Story SlamMN, a night of tears, laughter and judgment.

Storyteller Greg Pickett sings as part of his story of perseverance on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016 at Kierans Irish Pub. Picketts story on his journey through heroin addiction to sobriety won second place in the night.

Chris Dang

Storyteller Greg Pickett sings as part of his story of perseverance on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016 at Kieran’s Irish Pub. Pickett’s story on his journey through heroin addiction to sobriety won second place in the night.

Gunthar Reising

Both the stories and their authors were eclectic. One audience member laughed boisterously at things that weren’t jokes. The emcee navigated the tricky terrain of humor and personal anecdotes.

Last Tuesday at Kieran’s Irish Pub, a small crowd gathered to hear ten brave storytellers tell five-minute stories about an impromptu theme —“perseverance.” Five random people in the crowd were chosen to rate each story on a scale from one to 10.

“Any old asshole who wandered off the street can throw their name in the hat,” Allison Broeren, the event’s emcee, said.

With a cheer from the crowd, the storytelling commenced. First up was a story about someone who fell down at every hurdle in their high school’s 300-meter race. The story, told timidly, scored mostly low 7’s.

Next, Gregory Pickett took the stage, along with the audience’s heart. Drawing on his background in poetry, Pickett told a mellifluous first-person narrative of a heroin addict working towards sobriety — complete with an unabashed and heart-filled belt of “Hallelujah.”

If the story wasn’t autobiographical, it was surely deserving of an Oscar. Pickett left the stage in tears, hugging his companion.

The audience, after recovering from the performance, burst into applause — some had misty eyes themselves.

After a few lukewarm stories, Kevin Vandevoorde told a creative tale called “Four Voicemails to Mom.”

The story, told in the form of voicemails, detailed the journey of someone going from minor league baseball to the majors.

After the competition, Vandevoorde confided that the story was about his first attempts at writing. With an MFA in fiction writing, Vandevoorde got very close to delving into the writing scene but instead chose to apply himself to his family. The story rang with peaceful resignation.

“I saw all of the sacrifices I would have to make, and I chose my family … and that’s good,” Vandevoorde said.

Following Vandevoorde were stories about a wannabe politician and the chronicle of a man’s drunk driving bacchanalia.

Then came Jason Schommer, whose story about seeing Carnie Wilson at a grocery store in Los Angeles had the whole audience laughing.

“I’ve been a standup comedian for 10 years now,” Schommer said, explaining his energy-filled delivery. “I’m not a good joke writer … there’s just something more universal about a story.”

According to Schommer, the story is completely true.

“Truth is a lot more interesting than fiction,” he said.

The comedic background served him well; Schommer took first place in the competition, followed by Pickett in second and Paul Canada in third with another account of heroin addiction.

Cutting through the unavoidable nerdy-ness of a story slam was the emotional tenor of the stories. Each storyteller revealed a delicate piece of themselves, and the audience was appreciative and supportive of their vulnerability.