It’s Official – Season 3!

Hard to believe it, but Once Upon A Slam has just started its third season. Why, it seems like just yesterday the brand new baby story slam was born and took its first steps at the Mercury Lounge. Now here we are, entering toddlerhood. *sigh*

Okay, enough baby analogy already! We did get the season off to a grand start tonight down in Overkill, the Merc’s underground level. There were 8 slammers on the sign-up list, the 5 judges were easily persuaded to take on that most important of roles, the audience filled the seats and we even had some wonderful festive outfits thanks to Catwoman Faye and Feathered Beauty Sarah. Even more exciting, fully half the slam list were first-time slammers. While it is always great to see familiar faces, we also love to see the fresh blood take the mic. Dedicated story slammers need to start somewhere after all.

Red Phoenix , our feature storyteller for the evening, got things started by acting as the sacrificial teller. She told a great tale about Aaron Kelly – The Most Stubborn Man in the World. Well, that Aaron hung stubbornly on and the whole time penalty thing was ably demonstrated with a -7.5 deduction. A great preview for Red Phoenix’s feature set nonetheless.

Amy Smeltzer was the first name out of the hat on her first occasion slamming. She gave us a great ghost story passed on to her from her father. Great to see family stories passed down! She scored a 24.6, a good number for being in the bullet position.

Rick Czapelka was another of our newbies and he told a great personal story about the ingenuity of roofers in making over steel-toed work boots into high-class high-gloss footwear. As you might guess, it didn’t really work out in the end – hairy boots indeed. Rick scored a 23.9.

Next up was OUAS veteran Robin Le William North with his signature style with a touch of the surreal. This one followed our young man to a tulip farm in the Netherlands complete with adventures chosen by dart throwing. Sadly, time was not on Robin’s side and after a sizeable time penalty, he scored 20.1.

OUAS resident poet Array-of-Words was the 4th teller up and reminding us of the upcoming Remembrance Day told the story of his grandfather in the Philippines during WWII. He scored at very strong 26.6, the story definitely resonated with the judges.

Our third new slammer of the night was Amal El-Mohtar who also delivered a poetic story, answering her lover’s question about why she hadn’t written a poem for him yet. (Hint, poem writing is often triggered by hurt.) She came in right behind Array-of-Words with a 26.5.

David Merleau told “Jack and the Princess.” Not your typical Jack tale, this one doesn’t end well for the Princess. He dealt with the distraction of people poking their head in the door of the venue to see what was going on (and an audience member having an AHA moment), narrowly avoiding a time penalty. He scored 25.2.

Murray McGregor showed us that sometimes no news is in fact bad news with his tightly told version of a old tale of woe. In trying to break the bad news to a neighbour gradually,  the misfortune piles on one on top of the other until he finally learns his wife has left him with the hired man. Ouch! The score was 24.9

Our last first-time slammer was also the last of the round, with Kiran Sachdev taking the mic. He told a story about finding the perfect jacket and scored a 23.8.

So the slam ended with Array-of Words taking the win, Amal El-Mohtar right behind and David Merleau coming in third. It was a great slam, with a fantastically wide range of stories and styles of telling them. We hope to see all the first timers become second timers soon.

The feature from Red Phoenix did not disappoint! She took the stage attired in a top hat, corset, long skirt and shoes with a bat motif, really in the spooky spirit. She gave us tales of murder and revenge with Mr. Fox, love lost and then found with deadly result in Johnny and Elizabeth, the hazards of incurring the curse of a Roman goddess (a particularly gruesome outcome) and a brave young girl who triumphs over the forces of death in Mary Culhaine and the Dead Man. All suitably gruesome, spooky or downright horrific for a show on Halloween weekend. We heard that the voice she gave to the undead thing in Mary Culhaine made 2 ladies in the audience hold each other’s hands in fright. There were also a number of squeaks of either fear or delight to be heard throughout the set. High praise for a spooky story indeed! We are sad that Red Phoenix has to head back to England, so soon but we look forward to the next time she comes to town.

All in all, a great night with great stories!

Stay tuned for the update on the next show. We may be making some changes to OUAS, including the possibility of reducing the frequency of the shows from monthly to another schedule. As soon as the next show is set, we will be sure to let you know right away.




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Get your spooky on at Once Upon A Slam!

Hear ye! Hear ye!

The leaves are all glorious in their colour, the nights are nippy and the Halloween costume pop-up shops are here. That can mean only one thing! It is time to start the third season of Once Upon A Slam. Hard to believe it is Season Three already, but the calendar says 2012, so it must be.

So, mark that calendar with Friday, October 26th and get your stories ready to be told and ears ready to listen. We will be in the lower level at the Mercury Lounge, doors and sign up for the slam will start at 6:45 and the show will start at 7:15. As usual, there will be 8 spots for slammers to tell their stories with no props, paper or musical instruments. We will waive the usual costume restriction. It being Halloween weekend and all, you might just want to dress up a little for the show!

We are thrilled to announce that our feature storyteller for the season opener is coming to us all the way from England. Red Phoenix is a storyteller and theatre practitioner who has had a keen love of storytelling from a young age (she can remember setting up a storytelling club in her infant school playground aged 4!). A school councillor once asked her what she wanted to do for a living when she grew up. Her answers were to be Maid Marian and be a storyteller. The councillor said neither of those things were possible, but Red Phoenix showed her. Not only did she become a full-time professional storyteller, she has also told stories while playing Maid Marian herself!

See, a storytelling Maid Marian!


Having trained and worked in theatre since 1992, she combines her skills in both areas to create magical bespoke performances for all ages. As artistic director and founder of Red Phoenix Storytelling & Productions, she is most at home when in front of an audience and is happy to perform in almost any situation to all ages anywhere in the world. Red Phoenix is going to give us a set of Halloween appropriate spooky stories from the British Isles, so be prepared for things that go bump in the night and say ‘Boo!’

Here’s a little peek of Red Phoenix in action.

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That’s a Wrap!

We crowned our new champion and wrapped up the second season of Once Upon A Slam tonight in fine style indeed. Not that the show was completely free of hiccups, just nothing that couldn’t be solved by plan B.

An extra slammer was added to the list the day before the show. Not something we would normally do, but extenuating circumstances and all. Array of Words qualified for the finals, but knowing he was already booked for another show, his spot was given to the next person on the list. Then that other show was moved to next week and suddenly Ray was free, so we went with 9 slammers instead of 8.

Everything was going along tickety-boo, audience was filing in, finalists were arriving, then a text arrived from David Hickey (hereafter known as Hobbes). He was driving down from Montreal and was delayed. Not critically, but we would have to hold the show start for him. In that same text exchange we discovered that the sacrificial teller for the evening, who was meant to be coming with Hobbes, wasn’t coming. Oh dear. We need a sac, the judges need their calibrating after all. Fortunately, Randy Droll had come to the show hoping for an open mic to tell a story he prepared. No open mic, but Randy was game to be the sac. Woo hoo, crises averted.

Knowing Hobbes was parking and the preamble would take some time, we got the show started, about 25 minutes late. Hobbes sailed in just before Randy went up to sac. Hooray, everyone was here and ready to go!

Randy dropped a story that combined the poetry of John Donne and the fears of a child over suicide and mental illlness. The judges were duly calibrated and off we went.

Luna Allison, fresh off a run at the Montreal Fringe Festival drew the bullet and went up first. She gave a short story from her show Falling Open and the judges gave her a 23.2. Going first isn’t ideal from a score point of view.

Next up was Kate Hunt with a harrowing story of escape from the Vietnam War, scoring 26.4. Watch for Kate in a couple of Ottawa Storytellers show coming in the fall/early winter (plug, plug!)

Local SF/fantasy author Marie Bilodeau brought a tale of love, betrayal, revenge and her underpants that had the audience in stitches and prompted calls of “Betrayal!” throughout the rest of the night. A 25.7 was her number.

Array-of-Words is more typically seen on stage at Capital Slam and other poetry slams around town, but tonight he was getting his narrative on. He sucked us all right in with trip to the grocery store that turned into quite a tall tale. He also got the first time penalty of the night, giving him a score of 23.3.

At the halfway mark we had RonSense, who has been making a splash in the slam scene in town. He qualified for the OUAS finals as well at the Capital Slam finals after taking wins in regular season shows at both slams. He told a story about a young student named “Don” and his fateful encounter with a red velvet princess dress. The second time penalty knocked him down 3 whole points for a score of 24.1.

Next up was Hobbes, hoping to repeat after being the OUAS co-champion last season and he didn’t dissapoint. Love and Madness netted him a 28.7 and a convincing lead.

Joanna Smith, not so mild-mannerd reporter by day, gave us all the heebie-jeebies with a tale of hotel bed bugs and smug hotel staff. She scored a 22.6.

David Merleau, the second tallest slammer (Ron wins by a smidge) told of Shell Solid Gold tapes, family excursions and Elvis working as an Elvis impersonator in his signature wry style. His score was 24.4.

Last up was Francis Rounding, who regularly comes all the way from Cornwall to attend and perform at slams and other storytelling events in Ottawa. His best advice? Don’t get drunk and then agree to a bikini line waxing! His tale of pain and ripped off hair scored 23.8.

A break was had, 2 of our judges had to leave unexpectedly and boy was it ever hot in down in Overkill. Literally. The fans were going full blast, but with all the bodies it was heating up. We found 2 new judges and got the second round underway.

Joanna Smith drew the bullet this time and told a lovely story about a young girl who everyone thought was Strange, but really just needed someone to connect with. Don’t we all? Judges gave her a 26.6.

Marie Bilodeau was second and what seemed to be a spooky ghosty story turned in to a tribute to her dearly departed and very fat cat Merle. Turned it on a dime she did, silly spooky to touching in an instant. 25.5 for Marie and Merle.

Array of Words brought us something completely different from his first round tall tale. He told the story of his grandfather’s experience in the Bataan death march in the Philippines in WW2 through a spoken word poem. The judges dug the change of style and pace and scored him a 27.3.

RonSense, assured that the statue of limitations on charging someone with trespassing was past told us his story of filming a trailer for a Stargate variation involving  evil snowmen. There were silly university “cops” put straight by some real cops. No time penalty this time and he scored 25.3.

David Merleau gave us the lesson that if you are going to lead a fake ghost walk that appears to end in a grisly murder, it is best to get the cash from the customers before you do the murder. Good advice as always David. 25.9.

Francis Rounding doesn’t seem to mind recounting embarrassing incidents before an audience. This time it was the perils of peeing on the Go Train. Note, always brace yourself! He scored a 23.0 for that little gem.

Kate Hunt continued the trend of embarrassing stories with a tale of grade 6 athletics gone horribly wrong. At least she finished the race and scored a 26.4.

Luna Allison was the penultimate teller of the second round. A border crossing incident that could have gone very wrong was saved by the fact that the customs agent figured if she was a poet she wasn’t making any money anyway and let her through. Luna won the prize for the biggest time penalty, clocking in at 8:35. That meant a big score deduction leaving her score at 14.8. Ouch!

Hobbes was last up for the show and the season. His tale of an encounter between a tea ceremony master and a samurai got him a 27.2.

Super-duper (and fast) scorekeeper/timekeeper Rusty had the finals score tallied before Ruthanne had barely done a couple of show plugs. Which was a good thing, we were running over time. Here is how it all shook out, total scores from both rounds.

Hobbes 55.9
Kate Hunt 52.8
Marie Bilodeau 51.2
Array of Words 50.6
David Merleau 50.3
RonSense 49.4 (time penalty dropped him down from 3rd)
Joanna Smith 49.2
Francis Rounding 46.8
Luna Allison 38.0 (a -10.5 time penalty is hard to come back from!)

Congratulations to Hobbes for repeating as Once Upon A Slam season champion and winning the coveted (by Hobbes at least) red lipstick cheek kiss from Ruthanne.

It was a great show and all 9 slammers brought some great stories for our listening pleasure. Thanks to all the slammers, the judges, the audience and the Mercury Lounge for helping make such a great season. Now we rest up over the summer! But fear not, we will be back in the fall. In the meantime, “Tell it Well! Tell it True!”


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Once Upon A Slam Season Finals June 22nd

Summer is upon us and that means it is time for the Once Upon A Slam season finals. All year long, the storytellers have been sharing their stories in 5-minute bites for your listening delight. Now they get one final chance to wow the judges and vie for the title of OUAS Champion!

Our 8 finalist are;
David Merleau
Marie Bilodeau
David Hickey
Kate Hunt
Luna Allison
Francis Rounding
Joanna Smith

Come on down to the Mercury Lounge on Friday, June 22nd to see who will reign supreme. Doors open at 6:45 and the show starts at 7:15, $8 cover.


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An unexpected night off.

We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but well, we are. The Once Upon A Slam scheduled for tonight will have to be cancelled. We are very sad to miss out on C.S.E Cooney’s wonderful poetry, but there was no other option.

Look for the season finals on June 22nd.

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May Once Upon A Slam ft. C.S.E. Cooney

The next Once Upon A Slam is May 25th and features American poet and novelist C.S.E.(Claire) Cooney.

C.S.E. Cooney studied writing and acting at Columbia College Chicago. Since graduating in 2006, she has participated in new play festivals and solo shows around Chicago and was a reviewer for Centerstage Chicago. Her short plays have been produced in Chicago, Saint Louis, Taipei and New York.

Claire is the winner of the 2011 Rhysling Award (the Oscars for the Science Fiction Poetry Association) for her poem “The Sea King’s Second Bride,” which can be found in her new poetry collection How to Flirt in Faerieland and Other Wild Rhymes (Papaveria, 2012). Her novellas Jack o’ the Hills and The Big Bah-Ha were released last year by Papaveria Press and Drollerie Press respectively. Her story “The Last Sophia” will be appearing in Rich Horton’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2012 (Prime Books). Other stories may be found in SteamPowered II and Clockwork Phoenix 3, at Apex, Subterranean, Strange Horizons, Podcastle, Goblin Fruit, Cabinet des Fées and Mythic Delirium. She lives in Westerly, Rhode Island.

Claire is doing 2 shows while she is in Ottawa. The night before the story slam, she is performing as part of the Ottawa StoryTellers 4th Stage series at the NAC where she will be telling one of her original ghost stories in tandem with OUAS slam master Ruthanne Edward. Then on Friday the 25th, she graces the stage at the Mercury Lounge. Look for a set of Claire’s long-form narrative poetry that we guarantee will transport you to fantastical worlds where imagination rules.

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March slam features Somali/Canadian poet Sense-Say

Our next Once Upon A Slam is coming up on March 23rd and the feature performer will be Ottawa spoken word poet Sense-Say. Wait a minute you say! Why is a spoken word poet featuring at a story slam? Well, there is, of course, a story behind it all.

In addition to bringing you OUAS, slam master Ruthanne Edward and DJ/scorekeeper/butler Rusty Priske are also organizers of Capital Slam, the poetry slam series that happens at the Mercury Lounge every 1st and 3rd Saturday. There they were, at the back of the show on February 25th, watching the feature poet Sense-Say do his thing. A feature spot is great for a poet who usually performs in slams because they don’t have the 3-minute time limit to deal with. That means they can talk about their poems, introduce them, tell something of their background, inspiration, etc.  So Sense-Say starts to introduce his first poem and by introduce, we mean tell the story behind it. About being born the year the civil war in Somalia started, how his family got out and more. Then he did the poem itself. On to the second poem, which he introduced by telling a story. By the time he was halfway through his set, Ruthanne had turned to Rusty and said, “I’m booking him to feature at the story slam.” Rusty agreed. Sense-Say performed his  third and fourth poems, each time telling a story before it. Now, normally a slam feature set that only has 4 poems would feel pretty  chintzy on the content. But not that night. Everyone was so captivated by the stories he was telling and the charming and witty way he told them, they didn’t notice there were only 4 poems. As soon as he was done his set, just barely getting off the stage, Ruthanne pounced on Sense-Say and asked him to feature at OUAS. Happily, he said yes. Not only is he an amazing poet, it turns out he is an equally fantastic storyteller.

So, who the heck is the Sense-Say guy? He was born in Somalia and grew up in Canada and Somalia, he’ s currently a student at Carleton University and is the reigning Capital Slam Champion. Sense-Say discovered the spoken word scene when he walked into a (now moved to Toronto) Bill Brown 123 Slam at Umi Cafe. He heard some of the best poets in town do their thing and he was hooked. He wrote his first poem, showed up at the next Bill Brown and was immediately welcomed into the family. He made the Cap Slam season finals his first year out and won the season title in 2011. He captained the Cap Slam team that competed at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in October 2011, leading them to a spot in the national semi-finals.

What’s all this poetry got to do with storytelling you ask? Well, pretty much every poem Sense-Say writes has a story behind it. Whether it’s about life in Somalia, being tongued tied by a pretty girl, or losing a loved one, the stories are there. He has some incredible (and some just plain fun) stories to tell, but until he got up for his set at Capital Slam, we had no idea he was such a talented storyteller. It was one of those magical moments of discovering something completely unexpected. We are so thrilled that Sense-Say has agreed to come feature at Once Upon A Slam and we can expect the same combo of stories and poems that we saw at Cap Slam. After all, you don’t invite one of the top spoken word poets in the city to feature and not have him drop some poems. Even if it is a story slam!

Here’s a little preview of Sense-Say performing ‘That Type’ (and yes, there is a whole story about the girl who inspired the poem.)

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