Thursday, March 7, 2013

MythOff USA - House of Myth!

So once again here we go with the mythologies. Seems like we just can't get enough.
In the past four (four!) MythOffs we have constantly been tweaking things to make them more fun and keep them entertaining and interesting. This time, it was the venue: instead of a bar's back room we moved to a Victorian era (haunted) house that a friend of a friend generously offered as a place to be filled with mythology.
(And delicious food, and drinks)
So, instead of just MythOff, we had MythOff in the House of Myth. And it was good.
The lineup was also exciting: because so many people put their name in the hat, we decided to go with 8 tellers, 4 rounds, 10 minutes per story. We made this decision because last time almost no one hit the 15 minute mark, so the shorter time worked well, and also, we had a lot of new people eager to tell myths, and we wanted to give everyone a chance. In the end, one teller sadly fell ill the night before, but we still had seven amazing people.
The house needed some organizing and decoration, which mainly happened with the help and (super)vision of the fabuolous Cathy Jo, who, together with out host, turned the house into a candle-lit cavern of mystery. Everyone was very satisfied with the results, and the Japanese masks peeking around the corner in the bathroom to watch you pee.
The evening was hosted by Joshua Sellers, wo did a really good job at keeping everything on track. He opened the show with a series of extremely painful mythological puns, which was his was of reassuring that it was all uphill from there. It really was:

Round 1 - Monsters!
Cathy Jo opened the evening with a story from Malaysia titled Tenuk and the Toyol, about demons who prey on pregnant women, and demon babies that drink blood and like shiny things. It was haunting and terrifying at the same time, and told with a lot of wit and ingenuity.
In the other corner we had a first-time MythOff teller, Gareth Van Camp, who told us the cliffnotes version of the Exploits of Ninurta with conviction and voice that carried into the far ends of the room. He would have gotten good money for that delivery in ancient Mesopotamia.
The question that was put to the voting audience was: The monster most likely to terrify you as a child. Demon babies trumped Mesopotamian rock giants. Go figure.

Round 2 - Love!
Another newbie, Kim Bushor-Maki, brought us the sweet tale of Psyche and Eros, told with humor and kindness. And when we were all wrapped comfortably in the fluffyness, Griffin Van Camp took over, and told us the Aztec story of how scorpions were created because a man killed another man and his wife because he was sleeping with the Goddess of Filth. Um. Since the surprise voting question was Fluffiest lovie-dovie moment, you can guess which one took the cake. Still, I have to note that the scorpions finding their way back to each other were very cute in the end.

Round 3 - Secrets!
Paul Herrin went all out on his delivery of an Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime myth. He really did his homework. For one, he made two didgeridoos and brought them along. He also brought clapping sticks. Before the story he encouraged all of us to participate in the experience and keep time wheile he boomed throught the didgeridoo, and reminded us that a story is a community experience. He told us a bit about the Dreamtime, then delivered a story about how the animals discovered death. In the end he asked us to close our eyes... and when we opened them a swarm of butterflies were flittering around, projected onto the ceiling. It was magical.
So that was the story I had to follow with the Irish. I told the tale of Fergus Mac Leiti, the king that was ugly but no one told him for seven years. I really like this story and I enjoyed the heck out of telling it. It is funny in the beginning and touching in the end. The surprise question was Which secret I would most like to hear, and I was honestly surprised when the Irish won the vote. Seems like more people would like to know if they look ugly than to know what happens after death. Go figure.

Round 4 - Creation!
Since poor Travis was sick, the Chinese did not make an appearance. This last category was an honorary one for our third first-timer, Grayson Morris. She told us the Egyptian myth of creation, sometimes referring to her notes for all the names, but with a lot of charm.

All the winners got were the titles (written on card in envelopes, Oscars-style), and we made a point of reminding our audience that this was about the stories, not the tellers. Joshua did a good job of that. We also had two t-shirts that a helpful friend donated to us - the first two MythOff t-shirts ever! We gave them out as door prizes to our audience.

All in all, House of Myth ended up being a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. Also, the audience seems to have outgrown the house concert venue. Can't wait to see where we will end up next time!

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