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Springtime Stories @ Riley’s

April 30th, 2015

Shaggy compressed for blogThe Anglo-Saxon storytellers marked the ages of their characters in winters.

Consider, in Beowulf the hero is said to have lived fifty winters, not fifty years.  Why? Because anyone can survive a summer, but if you live through a winter, it’s time to celebrate. And that’s exactly what our band of 21st-century scops did Tuesday, April 28, when Story Night made its monthly return to Riley’s Pour House.

Having survived the winter, we celebrated with stories.

Bob P Compressed for blogMarking his Story Night return after too many months away was Sean “Shaggy” Sears (above left), a talented performer whose previous story about munchkin wrangling was one of the standout stories of our 2014 season.

We were delighted to have Sean return this time with a story about a dog and a rolling suitcase. We’ll call it “Shaggy’s Dog Story,” and I hope to have the audio posted soon as part of our ongoing series of podcasts.

Karen Rok Compressed for blogAlso making their returns were Bob Podurgiel (above right), who shared a story about a pair of amorous wrens; and Karyn Rok (left) who told a tale about a kidnapped dog. Great stuff!

Making his storytelling debut was Jimmy Zamerski (below right), a talented musician who often plays piano at Riley’s. He has backed me up during my performances on a number of occasions, and it was great having him join the scops at this month’s Story Night. His tale involved a revelation regarding an intersection between math and music. You can learn more about Jimmy’s discovery of “The Eternal Melody” by checking out his video below.

Jimmy Z Compressed for blogApril also marked the anniversary of my first storytelling performance at Riley’s. It was a year ago this month that I stopped by the pub on a rainy evening to find out what Story Night was all about. Jim Riley was the host back then, and I guess he liked my story because a week later he called and asked if I’d be interested in taking over.

In honor of that anniversary, I told my debut story again. It’s titled “The Haunted Attic,” and you can hear it by clicking the podcast player below.

Podcastlogo (1)Clearly, the art of storytelling springs eternal at Riley’s, and you can help make sure it continues.

If you live in or are planning a visit to the Pittsburgh area, please consider joining us for one of our upcoming sessions (stories take the stage on the last Tuesday of every month). You can also help by sharing links to this blog, the media below, and our growing roster of free podcasts (most of them recorded live at Story Night). You can find a directory of those podcasts here.

Remember, the first rule of Story Night is you do talk about story night. Keep talking . . . and scop on!

What Riley’s Scops Talk About . . .
When They Talk About Love

February 26th, 2015

tim sommers leadThe polar vortex didn’t keep story lovers from turning out at this month’s storytelling night at Riley’s Pour House.

If you were there, you know firsthand how thoroughly the act of storytelling can warm a frigid night.

If you didn’t attend, and you live anywhere in the Pittsburgh area, you owe it to yourself to drop by next time. Either way, we hope you enjoy this post and will consider spreading the word about Story Night @ Riley’s.

This months session featured a roster of talented scops who explored (in the words of Raymond Carver) “what we talk about when we talk about love.”

Doug Claytor thumbnailThe night’s lineup featured a number of new faces, storytellers whom we hope will become regulars. Among them was Tim Sommers (above left), an accomplished scop who has performed on The Moth stage in London and New York. In introducing his story, Tim spoke of his belief that love stories take a lifetime to be fully realized. Nevertheless, he shared a piece of a story in which love helped bring him back from a nearly fatal accident — a smash up that he related with the intensity of a thriller writer.

Also on hand was Doug Claytor (right), a spoken-word performer from Maryland who specializes in the ancient art of reciting verse from memory. A true 21st-century scop, Doug presented three poems as spoken-word stories, delivering them without the aid of book or paper. By doing so, he demonstrated the kind of connection a performer can established by speaking directly to an audience. That’s what Story Night is all about.

Cheryl RileyThe night also featured some familiar faces, among them Karen Yun-Lutz, Cheryl Riley (left), Richard “Shag” Shaughnessy (below right), and last year’s All-Star champion Owen Kilbane. I hope to post audio from some of their presentations soon.

For this installment of The 21st-Century Scop, I’m offering three of the presentations from Riley’s Love Night, featuring the debut performances highlighted above plus the opening story that I told to kick off the evening. Give a listen to all of them, and, if you like what you hear, please spread the word. If you have any trouble playing any of them, please let me know. I’ve been using Libsyn as the podcast service provider for these 21st-Century Scop recordings. The service seems quite reliable on my end, but I’d like really like to know what you think.

Shag LoveFinally, if you like what you hear in the recordings, we’ll be doing another storytelling night on March 31, when the theme will be St. Patrick’s Day stories — the perfect topic for an Irish pub.

If you’d like to gather some raw material for a story, consider attending Riley’s big St. Patrick’s Day celebration on March 14, when I’ll be taking the music stage with some of the members of the Laughrey Connolly Band at 7:00 pm. Also performing will be John Puckett and The Wild Geese Band. Be there, and I guarantee you’ll have stories to tell.

So much for preamble. The audio players are below. Listen, enjoy . . . and scop on!

Photo of Lawrence C. Connolly copyright © 2014 by Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette.
All other photos copyright © 2015 by The 21st Century Scop.

Story Night @ Riley’s: Fear and Resolutions

February 3rd, 2015

Greg Siegle - compressedWe never know where the stories are going to take us at Riley’s Pour House.

This year’s first story night (January 27) featured a number of strong storytelling debuts as well as the return of one of 2014’s All Star champions. The theme was “Resolutions,” and although all of the stories addressed the topic, many also touched on the nature of fear and anxiety.

Among those storytellers making a Riley’s-Story-Night debut was Greg Siegle, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Psychiatry who spends his days studying the dynamics of depression and anxiety. He’s a gifted storyteller with an intense rapid-fire wit that made his story one of the highlights of the evening. Centering on his desire to lower the intensity of his life, or (in his words) “turn it down to simmer,” his story veered through a variety of fascinating experiences. I won’t give any more away. You can hear the story for yourself by clicking the player at the bottom of this page.

Margee Kerr - compressedAlso making a Riley’s debut was Margee Kerr, a sociologist who studies fear for a living. On her website she writes:

Ever wonder why we’re afraid of spiders and clowns? Zombies and ghosts? And why so many of us love the thrill of a roller-coaster or jump off a steep cliff? Well I have, and I’ve made it my goal to find the answers.

Margee’s story centered on researching a book about fear, travelling around the world and visiting places like the Suicide Forest in Japan — all in an attempt to probe the nature of unthinkable things. It was a fascinating tale, one that I hope to share with you soon.

Valerie Mason - compressedValerie Mason, who followed Margee, opened her story with an account of a time when she “looked death in the eye.” Thirty years ago, she had a knife held to her throat, and ever since she has learned to savor the joys of everyday life.

Fittingly, her resolution is to seek out new experiences, to read the great writers and to muster the courage to perform at Riley’s on Open-Mic Night, a resolution that should be a little easier to keep after taking the Story-Night Stage.

stephanie new cmprssdAs mentioned earlier, our night of resolutions also featured the return of 2014’s storytelling trophy winner Stephanie Wytovich, whose poetry collection Mourning Jewelry is currently on the Preliminary Ballot for the Bram Stoker Award®.

Currently serving as the Graduate Admissions Counselor for the MFA in Creative Writing at Carlow University, Stephanie now lives close enough to Carnegie to become a regular at Riley’s.

For her resolution story, Stephanie spoke about her resolve to convey a sense of fear in her poems. Along the way she told about her inspiration for a new poem titled “Stalk, Stalk, Pray,” written to offer a glimpse into the minds of serial killers. Concluding with a reading of her poem, Stephanie’s presentation provided an interesting glimpse into one of the up-and-coming talents in the world of dark poetry.

You can hear the story that won Stephanie the 2014 Story Night prize by clicking here.

For Craig Siegle’s tale about resolving to turn his life “down to summer,” please click on the link below. Either way, enjoy . . . and we’ll hope to see you on Tuesday, February 24, when the storytelling theme will be Love. Get those Valentine stories ready . . . and scop on!

Image Credits: Greg Siegle, Margee Kerr, Valerie Mason, and Stephanie Wytovich — photos copyright © 2015 by The 21st-Century Scop.

All-Star Night:
When Scops Come Out to Shine

December 31st, 2014

Story Night Trophy  compressedscop

(skop)  — n

(in Anglo-Saxon England) a bard or minstrel

In addition to being an entertainer who composed and performed his own works, the scop served as a kind of historian and preserver of the oral tradition […].

 — Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008.

If Riley’s Pour House is steph compressedcontinuing the tradition of the Anglo-Saxon meed-hall by providing a public space to celebrate the art of story, then the storytellers who show up every month to share their tales are indeed following in the footsteps of the ancient scops.

Last night, some of the top scops of 2014 returned to Riley’s for a special All-Star event that culminated with the awarding of the first-ever Riley’s Storytelling Trophy, presented by acclimation to the top storyteller of the year.

It was a close decision, so tight that in the end the prize went to two storytellers: Owen Kilbane and Stephanie Wytovich.

owen with pantiesIn the coming days, I’d like to post of few highlights from last night’s event, starting today with a podcast of Owen Kilbane’s story about growing up in Cleveland and his discovery that being a musician comes with certain rewards.

As a special note, for those of you who missed the live performance, part way through the podcast Owen makes reference to “these.” He says, “It was these actually. These are the actual ones.” To see what he is referring to, please see the photo to the left.


Image Credits:
– Jim Riley awards the Riley’s Trophy to Owen Kilbane and Stephanie Wytovich. 
– Stephanie Wytovich presents her award-winning story.
– Owen Kilbane holds up a pair of “these.”
– Owen plays his accordion, appropriately draped with one of his other trophies.
All photos copyright © 2014 by The 21st-Century Scop.