Q and A w/ co-founder of DCs fastest growing storytelling series: StoryLeague
andrew bucket | Sep 7, 2011 | 12:30PM |

words: Andrew Bucket

photos: courtesy of StoryLeague

S.M Shrake, or Scott as his colleagues refer to him, is along with Cathy Alter a co-founder of StoryLeague which is the fastest growing storytelling series in the city. The two upstarts put on their first show in March 2011, and most recently, in August, sold out the 200+ seat Dome Theatre at Artisphere, featuring performers from Huffington Post, Upright Citizens Brigade, and TEDtalks.

StoryLeague will bring DC their first ever story contest at Busboys and Poets 14th st location on Thursday 9.08 (tomorrow!)– an event that invites anyone and everyone to submit a short pitch of their story to a panel of seasoned storytellers, and perhaps be invited to compete that very night for $100 and loads of street cred.

>>>>>>>>>>>> Here is a Featured Event >>>>>>>>>>>>
Saturday 04/22
Paul Rodriguez LIVE from Original Latin Kings of Comedy @ Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse
$25 / $25
Longtime comedian Paul Rodriguez has been making audiences laugh all over the world (in Spanish and English) for nearly three decades with his unique brand of humor that is a perfect blend of his Latin heritage, the American dream and his undeniable universal appeal. As an actor and comedian, Paul Rodriguez’s multi-faceted career includes starring roles and featured appearances in over 45 films and countless television series and comedy specials. Voted one of the most influential Hispanics in America and awarded the Ruben Salazar Award by The National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, Rodriguez has remained a constant force in his community and the world of comedy throughout his career. Rodriguez's film credits include "Without Men" with Eva Longoria and Christian Slater; "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore;" "The Deported," "I’m Not Like That No More"with comedian Felipe Esparza (2010 "Last Comic Standing" winner), Disney’s blockbuster hit "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," "The World’s Fastest Indian," "A Cinderella Story," "How to Get the Man's Foot Outta Your Ass," "Ali," "Tortilla Soup," "Crocodile Dundee in LA," "Rat Race," "Bloodwork," "Chasing Papi"and "D.C. Cab," among others. The multifaceted entertainer recently wrote and performed his first-ever one-man show "Just for the Record," which is now available on DVD. In this tell-all theatrical piece, Rodriguez takes audiences on a journey through his remarkable life, including his childhood in Mexico, to his family's move to Compton, California (where he grew up), his illustrious career and the significant relationships and moments that helped shape his life along the way. Rodriguez has hosted several hit series, including the entertainment talk show "El Show de Paul Rodriguez," an entertainment talk show for Univision which reached over 50 markets throughout the United States and an international audience in over 17 countries in Central and South America. His additional hosting credits include the The NCLR ALMA Awards, The Tejano Music Awards, Showtime’s Latino Laugh Festival and his own television specials "Back to School" and "Behind Bars." He recently hosted "Mis Videos Locos with Paul Rodriguez” on Tr3s: MTV, Música y Más. As an accomplished writer, director and producer for television, motion pictures and feature shows, Rodriguez has several hit projects to his credit including the comedy concert film "The Original Latin Kings of Comedy," which he executive produced and starred in along with Cheech Marin, George Lopez and Carlos Mencia; the feature film "A Million to Juan,"which he also wrote, directed and starred in; six comedy specials for HBO including "Loco Slam, " "Live in San Quentin" and "Idiots and Armadillos." As executive producer, he recently struck comedy again with his Comedy Central stand-up concert DVD, “Comedy Rehab.” In addition to his many hit comedy specials in English, Rodriguez has the distinguished credit of performing the first-ever one-hour standup comedy special in Spanish, "Dime Con Quien Andas,"for Telemundo. Among his many credits, Rodriguez has also made guest appearances on several Late Night shows including "The Wanda Sykes Show,""The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," "Last Call with Carson Daly,"and "Politically Incorrect." Additionally, he has guest starred in several television series including "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," "Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List," "Shaken Not Stirred," DIRECTV’s"S upreme Court of Comedy,"Showtime's original series "Resurrection Boulevard"and"American Family." He has also lent his voice to popular animated series including "King of the Hill,""Dora the Explorer" and "The Proud Family." Rodriguez’s first big break came while doing comedy warm-ups for Norman Lear's show "Gloria."Lear ultimately wrote and developed a weekly series for Rodriguez entitled "a.k.a. Pablo," which is enshrined at the Smithsonian and holds the distinct honor for being the first television show about a Mexican American family on mainstream American television.
>>>>>>>>>>>> Ok, back to the article! >>>>>>>>>>>>

What attracted you to stories rather than stand-up, slam poems, or performance art?

It was an easy way in, to performing I mean, because it was something I’d done before (i.e., my whole life): Told everyone in a room to shut up and listen to me tell a story. Without interrupting me! I’ve since tried stand-up, and boy is it hard. I can’t do poetry (not smart enough). And performance art usually entails something more like a monologue: And I hate monologues, because they are memorized.

Is a storytelling show a good date idea?

I don’t know if it’s good, but regardless I certainly end up taking my dates to story shows, because that’s what I’m doing most nights anyway. They can tag along. I call that a date. But when you think about it, I’d say: It’s as good as any type of show, and shows are good bets for dates because then you don’t have to talk to your date… until afterward, at which time you have something to discuss (the stories you’ve just heard, who was good, who stunk up the joint).

Do you see a lot of people just dying to get on stage after they see a show?

A lot of my friends come to a show and then they say they want to tell a story onstage, but I tell them it’s harder than it looks. It looks fun, but like the wise Tiger Mom says, “Nothing is fun until you are good at it.”

What is the best story you’ve heard recently?

I loved the one from our Politics show last month at Artisphere, about an Asian-American ex-Bible-thumper who becomes a teacher and takes a job at a Yeshiva school, where they won’t let him teach without a rabbi in the room to “correct” him on things like evolution. That was funny, with lots of acting, different voices, and subtle ironies: stuff I love.

The most impressive “serious” story was one I heard the first time I went to a story show, and that was about a woman who finally comes out as a lesbian, is really happy and is in her first relationship, and then she is abducted and nearly raped by a man. I was holding my breath and leaning in for the whole 7 minutes… it was terrifying and amazing, and the perfect blend of expert presentation and riveting subject matter.

What got you so excited to bring a story contest to DC?

Well, I’ve competed in “story slams” in New York (I survived the experience), Detroit (I won!), and Philadelphia (I was robbed), and it was really cool, helped me get some chops! But there were several operational methods I thought of while traveling around, and have been dying to try out, things that are different. Things having to do with the story selection, the judging process, the time limit, the prize, etc.

Is our storytelling scene having a boom right now?

I would say yes, definitely. There are more story events than ever here, in different venues, with different conceptions behind them.

Story League and the other story orgs in D.C. are building bridges with other cities, to nurture symbiosis and work on getting a national network that’s strong and shares its talent across different cities. Story League has brought down three tellers from Baltimore, one from Philly, and three from New York for our shows so far. And at the Contest we will have Amy Saidman from SpeakeasyDC, Laura Wexler from The Stoop in Baltimore, and Dan Gasiewski from First Person Arts in Philadelphia as our judges! I think that’s a step in the right direction.