Live, Indirectly From New York, It's StorySlam Tel Aviv!

From the travails of an Israeli girl lost in translation in Texas to the hauntingly funny story of dubious tenants of a NYC apartment, a local version of New York's The Moth storytelling event gives Tel Avivians a taste of the story.

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It's a rainy night in the middle of the week and the cozy cafe Xoho in central Tel Aviv is humming with a lively crowd of young people from around the world. They've gathered here to share some extraordinary adventure from their past and listen to others spin their tales of awe and triumph.

Based on the concept of the popular New York City based StorySlam events of The Moth, StorySlam Tel Aviv is an open-mike storytelling event held monthly in English, exploring a different theme each time. Storytellers, both experienced raconteurs and novices, get seven minutes to deliver their carefully crafted numbers, while the audience enjoys an intimate and enlightening experience. Among the highlights on this night were an account of the travails of an Israeli girl lost in translation in Texas, and the hauntingly funny story of the dubious tenants of a NYC apartment.

The Moth is a non-profit organization founded in 1997 by American novelist George Dawes Green, aiming to recreate the experience of storytelling on a porch in his hometown Georgia, while moths flew into the light bulb. Today, in addition to holding storytelling events in multiple cities across America, the organization offers a podcast and a radio show, and also runs a community program providing storytelling workshops to high school students and underprivileged New Yorkers. Their declared goals are to "dissolve socioeconomic barriers, expose vulnerabilities, and quietly suggest ways to overcome challenges."

"People don't really know what to expect when they come to our events," says Alon Gelnik, the founder and life force behind the local initiative. A New Jersey native, Gelnik arrived in Israel eight years ago with Garin Tzabar, a program offered through the Israel Scouts to Diaspora Jews and children of Israelis wishing to move here and join the army, and which houses them at a kibbutz during their army service. Gelnik ended up staying, like the vast majority of his group's 44 members.

He is the quintessential host, a perfect entertainer. He ties the stories together with funny interludes (such as excerpts from The Moth nights, esoteric news stories, quotes and trivia from around the world relevant to the night's theme ), contributing anecdotes of his own, witty commentary and wise insights, illustrating his curiosity and humor, which brought him to start this project in the first place. When he visited one The Moth's storytelling events in Brooklyn last August, Gelnik was surprised and encouraged to discover that word of his Tel Aviv StorySlam had already reached the organizers.

The Moth holds its StorySlams in the form of a competition and sometimes features guest appearances by literary and cultural personalities. Is this something you intend to do?

"In the future we plan to introduce scoring and invite guest speakers. Right now we are working on building up our audience and polishing up the local skills. We are always looking for new storytellers to join us."

Are you going to keep your events exclusively in English, or do you see it one day expanding to include storytelling in Hebrew?

"I don't think we will go bilingual. There aren't enough events for the younger Anglo crowd, and these are the people we want to cater to."

Their next event, marking the anniversary of their first one, will be held Wednesday night, January 9, 2013, at the Dancing Camel Brewery in south Tel Aviv, a better venue to contain their crowd, which has long outgrown the small cafe space.

StorySlam Tel Aviv. Wednesday at 20.00. Dancing Camel Brewery, 12 Ha'Taasiya St., Tel Aviv

StorySlam in Tel AvivCredit: Danielle Shitrit.

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