Ward Rubrecht got the highest score at the second Moth storytelling contest last night at the Amsterdam in St. Paul.            

Love hurts, but storytelling is the best revenge. Several skilled raconteurs proved it Wednesday at the Amsterdam Bar & Hall in downtown St. Paul, where the second of the Moth's Minnesota storySLAMs drew a crowd of 200.

The Moth, a New York-based organization devoted to the craft of storytelling, first became prominent by taping celebrities telling stories. It's now gone national, producing storySLAMS in several cities. The slams here are hosted the last Wednesday of each month by MPR, which airs the Peabody Award-winning "The Moth Story Hour" at 10 p.m. Sundays.

Last month's theme was "secrets," last night's "love hurts."  Part of the event's charm is its mix of randomness and rules; storytellers toss their names into a bag and ten are drawn. Three sets of judges are also picked from the audience. Each performer's story must not go longer than five minutes, a long whistle is blown softly to warn them when time is running out.

Host MIke Fotis, who won last month's premiere event with a story about something terrible he did on a plane, gave encouraging feedback to most of the performers.  "I could feel the lightning shaking off your hips," he told Hope Koon, after she recounted her resentful retaliation toward a "candy boyfriend" who two-timed her. 

Ward Rubrecht nailed the highest score with a biting account of bullying. Matt Burgess's creative take on the theme involved stalking a mysterious codger who might have been J.D. Salinger, or not. Leif Walvin from Minot (with the accent to prove it) had us on the edge of our seats when he told of hitching a ride with a creep to reach his lady love.

Though the contestants are chosen by luck of the draw, the deck seemed a bit stacked with a clique of professional or at least very experienced tellers who know each other, like first-up Nancy Donoval, a former national champ whose excellent story about playing the "what-if game" about a lost love during "a dry spell I like to call my 30s" ran the gamut from hilarious to poignant. A few more gutsy amateurs would have made for a better mix, and maybe more will dare to share at the next event on March 27, when the theme will be "detours."


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