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Storytelling Festival: Audition Like a Pro

Carol Merchasin

By Mary Norquist, photo by BarryWeiss

The Second Annual San Miguel International Storytelling Festival is coming October 9 through 17 at the Bellas Artes Auditorium. It wouldn’t be a festival without storytellers, so get your stories ready, start practicing, and sign up for an audition on September 8 and 9. The festival is sponsored by the San Miguel Storytellers, part of the San Miguel Literary Sala.

Second Annual Storytelling Festival
September 8 and 9
October 15 and 16
Bellas Artes Auditorium
To reserve your spot: email

Based on last year’s festival, there are many wonderful storytellers here in San Miguel. We are looking for the top 20 that will perform in competition on October 15 and 16. The winners from the competition will perform at the final Showcase on October 17.

Stories can only be seven minutes in length, so put on your editor hat and pare your story to the most critical (funny, dramatic, sad) aspects. Then practice, practice, and practice!

When asked about auditioning, some of last year’s winners have some suggestions. Rick Roberts, who won Audience Favorite on one day of competition says, “Know your story cold. Believe in yourself and what you have to say. And, relax. Take your full seven minutes…you’re talking to friends.”

Carol Merchasin, who tied for Second Place in the overall competition and was an Audience Favorite on the other day of competition, says, “Be prepared. Work on your story structure, your narrative arc, and have fun. There is a very short distance between terrified and exhilarated. Try for the latter. Also recognize how normal it is. Some of the best performers in the world have terrible stage fright.”

Roger Batton of Indigan Storyteller and one of the judges from last year’s festival, says, “Think in terms of basic story: beginning, middle, and end. These three points are the plot of the story, even if not told in that order. Define what’s at stake. Incorporate the basics every journalist uses: who, what, when, where, and why. And do not hesitate to remove the slow parts of your story.” Ira Glass, who hosts “The Moth” on PBS has some simple tips too:

1. Have stakes. Stakes are essential in live storytelling. What do you stand to gain or lose?

2. Have a great first line that sets up the stakes or grabs attention. Start in the action.

3. Have fun. Make an outline, memorize your bullet points, and play with the details. Enjoy yourself. Imagine you are at a dinner party, not a deposition.

Check out The Moth’s website,, for more tips and suggestions for auditioning.

The Festival Audition Rules are simple. Your story must be true and told in seven minutes. It should be about something that happened to you or a family member or someone you know. Your story should be memorized, and you may use small props.

Start preparing now and join us on September 8 and 9 to audition. But it’s first come, first registered. Don’t wait. Email to reserve your spot.


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