Thursday, April 11, 2013

Breaking News: MythOff USA Origins - Getting personal

Reporting in from the magical 7th MythOff in international history: Johnson City's rockin' MythOff Origins.

(For wandering A to Z visitors: MythOff is an international series of storytelling events where storytellers tell myths from various cultures in a less-than-serious slam format. Usually in bars. With alcohol. Great fun! See the FB page here.)

We like tampering with the MythOff idea - within the limits of the original guidelines, of course. This time around we played with the selection process for the featured mythologies. Instead of drawing the mythology from a hat like before, we left it up to the storytellers to pick a myth from their own personal cultural background or tradition. This is especially a fun game to play with people who are self-labeled "American mutts."

We had a new venue too this time: a bar called Side EFX, with drink specials, tall chairs, and a neat little podium stage in the corner. The owner was not entirely sure what storytelling entailed, but as soon as the first story was under way he leaned on the counter with rapt attention, and by the end of the night he was so enthusiastic that he listed us ideas for future events. He also cast his votes for the tellers and cheerfully noted that all of them won.

The host of the evening was Griffin Van Camp, veteran MythOff-er and my favorite Scion Game Master. He was funny, collected, and on top everything. Including the voting questions. We had an audience of about 30 people, cheerful and very responsive.

Because of selecting from our own traditions, the entire thing felt a lot more personal. Every teller chose their story first, and then we were paired up, and came up with themes to connect the pairs. It was a very laid-back and free way of preparing for a myth slam, and yielded amazing results.

Round 1: Divine Wisdom (voting question: Which nugget of wisdom would you wish you have been given when you were a child?)
In the Hebrew/Christian corner: Paul (who took on the risky role of calling the Bible "mythology" in East Tennessee and lived to tell the entire tale!) - with the story of Adam and Eve smoking the Tree of Knowledge. No comments. It was a surprising yet hilarious opening to the evening.
In the Welsh corner: Joshua - with the story of Taliesin. Reaching back to his family's Welsh roots he came up with an amazing telling of Taliesin's head filling up with infinite knowledge.
Welsh won.

Round 2: Epic Love (voting question: Precious)
In the Crow corner: Travis, exploring his Native American heritage and the amazing love story of Red Shield and Running Wolf, that, surprisingly for a Romeo and Juliet kind of setup, ended in peace.
In the Persian corner: Sam from Iran, telling us a 1600 year old love story that, surprisingly for a folktale-like setup, ended in tragedy. Sam was a first-time MythOff teller, and did an amazing job - he was funny and delightful, and the Persians won the round.

Round 3: Divine Punishment (voting question: Which punishment are you more afraid of?)
In the Hungarian corner: Yours truly, choosing to tell the tale of Attila the Hun and the Sword of God. As far as Hungarian mythology goes, this is as badass as you get.
In the Colombian corner: Carolina, from Colombia, telling a tale from Ecuador (that used to be the same country 200 years ago), telling the myth of the Tree of Life and how people were punished for their greed by losing it. Beautiful, gorgeous story well told.
Ecuador won.

Round 4: Hel(l) hath no fury like a jilted deity (voting question: "He had it coming!", sung from Chicago by Griffin with great enthusiasm)
In the German corner: Our lovely actress Meg Zinky, presenting the tale of Brunhilde and Siegfried with wit, humor and great language.
In the Scandinavian corner: Our very own Cathy Jo, with the mythical love triangle of Loki, Thor and Sif.
Norse vs Norse. Scandinavia won this time.

We have one more MythOff coming up for this season. If it ends up being half as good as this one, we will be more than satisfied.


  1. Sounds like a blast! I wanna go to a MythOff *slam-dunk for Greek Mythology nerd* Great Post!

  2. A storytelling contest sounds like fun! I'd love to attend, though I'd be a dead loss as a contestant :)

  3. That sounds like more fun than I can stand! haha

    #atozchallenge, Kristen's blog:

  4. I would go to a MythOff. Maybe even participate in it.