KALAMAZOO—A Western Michigan University professor was shown in a recent CBS "Sunday Morning" segment on storytelling and will be appearing this week at an event in Detroit put on by the storytelling organization The Moth.
Performance footage of Allison Downey, associate professor of teaching, learning and educational studies, was shown on a Sept. 9 segment of "Sunday Morning." While several Moth favorites were highlighted, Downey was the only Michigan storyteller shown in the piece.
A Detroit audience will see Downey in person on Thursday, Sept. 20, when she performs at a statewide competition put on by The Moth, Michigan Radio and radio station WDET-FM at the Gem Theatre. She will be one of 10 StorySLAM winners from last year competing in The Moth's 4th annual Michigan GrandSLAM Championship pegged to the theme "Fall from Grace."
"I am thrilled to be a part of this event and share the stage with some amazing storytellers," Downey says. "While the title of the event is the Moth GrandSLAM, to me the evening is more about creating community and celebrating the art and craft of storytelling than it is about winning a competition."
At the StorySLAMS, there are usually two to three tellers, out of the 10 competing, who equally deserve to win, with an occasional standout. With the lineup of storytellers at the GrandSLAM, short of a clear standout, everybody could deserve to win.
"My hope for the evening is simply to move people in the audience and be moved by the other storytellers," Downey says. "And with only two weeks notice for the theme, to remember my story!"
The Moth is an acclaimed nonprofit organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling that the Wall Street Journal hailed as, "New York's hottest and hippest literary ticket." While The Moth SLAM and GrandSLAM winners are selected by audience volunteer judges—a sort of people's choice award—Downey has also been selected by The Moth producers to perform for their juried or curated events. Last year, she was featured in sold-out mainstage performances co-produced by The Moth and Michigan Radio in Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor's Power Center.
Storytelling has become a research interest for Downey, who recently spent a sabbatical year in New York City conducting a comparative analysis of contemporary American storytelling genres. She focused primarily on documenting The Moth and other urban storytelling events, conducted interviews and performed at numerous events around the New York City area. She also taught a storytelling course for The Moth at a high school in the South Bronx.
Since then, Downey's storytelling abilities have attracted widespread attention. She was a featured teller at the 2012 Ann Arbor Storytelling Festival and Northlands Storytelling Conference. One of her stories was mentioned as a favorite this year in a New York Times blog on the science-based storytelling project Story Collider. Downey also leads storytelling workshops for organizations, schools and individuals and will be leading an all-day women's storytelling workshop for The Bonfire Institute Sept. 29 in Ann Arbor.