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All photos: Rachel Eisley

Story League returns to the Black Cat this evening, here’s what you can expect based on previous experiences…

When the Black Cat has a line down the street it is typically for a Melissa Etheridge reunion or a Natalie Imbruglia dance party sponsored by DC Brau. Yet on a hot August night this weekend past, there was a mob waiting to gain entry to something a bit different; something that has infatuated our city’s masses only of late– this was the first ever locally produced storytelling show at the Black Cat.


Storytelling in the modern form is borrowing from elements of stand-up comedy, dramatic monologue, and even slam-poetry (though the more bombastic a story is, the less engaging). The casual and yet dignified atmosphere makes for an artsy night out with all the cathartic gut-busting laughter of seeing a master comedian.

Storytelling has previously taken place in all sorts of venues, at the helm of the scene for many years has been SpeakEasy DC– a group of consummate professionals who teach workshops and produce shows. Some coaches like Amy Saidman and Kevin Boggs are some of the most active performers in the circuit. Many ‘tellers first time on stage has been a SpeakEasy event, including my own.


A year and some change ago, a scrappy newcomer named S.M Shrake founded , and instead of being competitive, the two organizations have become dual pillars of the community. Storyleague hosts a weekly story contest at 14th ST Busboys and Poets that invites average folk who have a story, pertaining to that particular night’s theme, to pitch their story to the judges in 100 words and possibly get on stage that night, and maybe even win 100$. The night is a regular sell out.

Back in August, Shrake’s Storyleague hosted an all star crew of storytellers, which included This American Life alums, on the main stage of the Black Cat.

The stories were masterfully curated and demonstrated a range of mood, from a hilariously sympathetic tale about getting dick-slapped in the face by the scariest thug in school, to a young woman’s trials in attempting to become a savvy journalist at a shore-side newspaper more interested in stories about salt-water taffy.

Storyleague.org is the place to go for all upcoming shows and story contests in DC and VA.

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