On March 25, Gonzaga University Story Slam presented six stories under the theme ‘loose change’ to a packed audience in Wolff Auditorium. Five of the stories were told individually, while one story was told by a pair of best friends. Seven student speakers invited the room to listen a little closer than usual and see them in a more personal light. There was not an unoccupied space in Wolff in a seat or on the stairs.
Senior coordinators Colleen Donoghue and Konner Sauve introduced storytellers of the night with memories and words of kindness, guiding them to the bar stool to the middle of the room. Storytellers were Chase Hoyt, Analuz Torres, Alyssa Gwinn, Eli Jenkins, Danika Morrison, Mariah Krey and Meredith Johnson.
It is dry to say that each story was unique, because that does not begin explain what the audience experienced on Monday night. The student speakers offered snippets of privilege, depression, danger and even a moment to reflect on bigger issues, which tends to be a theme at most story slams.
Past storyteller GU senior, Ethan Kane from the ‘swoon’ theme last month, reflected on his own experience as a speaker and audience member.
“I think [story slam] really fits what Gonzaga is about; holding space for community to share a part of themselves and learn from each other,” Kane said.
Kane makes a point to go to every Story Slam because of what he has learned from his peers.
“[You are] seeing people for who they really are, you know. And not just another face on campus, but someone with a deeper story behind them,” Kane said.
Sauve, has a lot of experience with story slam in his third year as a team member. He was approached to tell a story for the ‘accidentally in love’ theme his freshman year. Later he was asked to take it over when then senior coordinators would graduate. He has been emceeing since the beginning of his junior year.
Sauve and another coordinator, Taylor Ridenour, asked Donoghue to join the team last year. Donoghue has attended nearly every story slam since her freshman year and is enjoying her position as co-coordinator with Sauve.
“I just fell in love with it. [Being an emcee] has completely rocked my senior year,” Donoghue said.
Dr. Joe Albert is the Associate Dean of External Partnerships & Strategic Initiatives in the School of Leadership Studies and is the man responsible for making Story Slam come to life.
Story slam started as a panel of students and faculty headed by Albert. The panel, incorporating professors from various departments, focused on storytelling and philosophy and how they relate. It later became a small event that gave students and faculty a chance to tell their story. It has grown a lot today from where it began.
“It was really small to begin with and now it fills the room, which is so crazy,” Sauve said. “I think most of that is the groups that the storytellers bring and those communities from all around campus and different friend groups that really are here to hear everything.”
After this year, the story slam team will be changing leadership. The founder of the program, Albert, is retiring this spring and both coordinators will be graduating. There is a pair of juniors, Catherine Collins and Cameron Marsh, who will be taking over emcee for Donoghue and Sauve.
Collins and Marsh first made connection with story slam when their GU pre-orientation Reality Camp small group leader, Taylor Ridenour, gave them advice on what do at GU.
“We asked her what was on the ‘hit-list’ of things to do at Gonzaga, and the first thing on her list was story slam,” said Collins.
Collins explained what it’s like to experience a Slam for those that have not been.
“You don’t get it until you come and you see the socks on the floor. Then you hear the stories and you laugh with people and you forget about everything outside of Wolff Auditorium for an hour. Even if you don’t know the storytellers, you can look down [after the event] and see this fat cloud of people who love them. It’s such a privilege to be a part of that space.”
Donoghue also felt the privilege to be a part of it all and reflects on her experience this past year as part of the team:
“I feel more so now, incredibly privileged, to hear people’s stories than I ever have before. I think the amount of trust that people have given me with their stories is something that I’ll never take for granted because storytelling is very vulnerable. I’ve learned a lot just how other people see Gonzaga, how other people see life and different perspectives on themes and scenarios.”
There are four story slams each year, and the last, themed ‘beyond,’ will be led by new emcees Collins and Marsh on April 15 at 8:00 p.m.
Alyssa Estes is a staff writer.