Meet Story League Sings’ SM Shrake!
We’re continuing to introduce you to our fabulous 2014 First Person Arts Festival lineup. Up this week, we have self-proclaimed “diva” and founder of Washington D.C.’s Story League, SM Shrake. Story League is bringing their hot, hip, and outrageously funny new program, Story League Sings, to the Fest Saturday, Nov. 8 at Underground Arts. If you’ve ever secretly (or not so secretly) dreamed of becoming a rock star, this is THE show for you! Tickets on sale now!
AG: What excites you most about performing at the FPA Festival this November?
SM: It’s our first out-of-town show! So, it’s a chance to show Philly Phriends our unique show idea: humorous stories paired with karaoke-style live songs (that play on the stories). Story League did a survey last winter and we found out our D.C. fans loved the Story League Sings concept MOST of all out of the different kinds of shows we’ve put on since 2011, so it was a natural for our first foray into Philly. I lived in Philadelphia for many years before moving to D.C., and I still consider it my home away from home.
AG: How did you first get involved in storytelling?
SM: I was on This American Life several years ago, but that was just a one-off, not the beginning of anything. Story League came a few years later when I was having a mid-life crisis. See, in real life I am a loner, but one night I forced myself to go to a storytelling event here in D.C. The story community was so welcoming, and the format seemed so perfect (not as high-pressure as stand-up, but you could still make an audience laugh), I thought, “This is my jam.” So then I took it a step further and create my own story-thing. I spent a year going around the country to other storytelling and comedy shows, making note of what worked and what stunk, and when I came back I had own my recipe for how I would run Story League in unique ways.
AG: How’d you come up with the concept for Story League Sings?
SM: Totally selfish: I personally would’ve preferred to be a rockstar over being a story star. I’m from a musical family, but I’m lazy and I am a diva, so this was a chance to get up there and perform at a rock ‘n’ roll club like the pseudo rockstar I always wished to be, on my own terms! Now we’ve done 3 Story League Sings editions in D.C. and they’ve been huge hits because everybody in the cast can “kinda sing” enough that they are entertaining, not cringe-worthy. Maybe Philly would get a good laugh out of some cringe-fest stuff, though. Maybe I’ll purposely put some tone-deaf friends up there so we can all laugh at them.
AG: Where do you love to sing most?
SM: Oh, you know, Carnegie Hall, The Met, various stadiums and arenas around the U.S.—and internationally. No, I like singing while I walk down the street, to freak people out. I’m “one of those.” Another thing: I was on a karaoke team here in D.C. last year! They have a league for that, too. I loved doing the solos… I am not a team player. I am
almost viciously competitive, even with myself. I was like, “I’m not here to make friends. I’m here to kick your ass with my mediocre singing abilities.” So I think they were happy I didn’t sign up again. We’re friends, though. Two of their biggest stars are appearing with us in Story League Sings this time!
AG: Story League wants to find the funniest stories. Why do you think humor is important in storytelling?
SM: Look, I have nothing against that type of sharing-focused, “this happened to ME and it’s true and therefore I should tell you about it” storytelling, I just personally prefer to laugh. Every time. I guess it’s like the difference between art (them) and entertainment (us). The difference between just asking me to care about your life vs. giving me some new stuff to laugh at. When a friend you know to be funny is about to tell you a doozy — “Did you hear what happened Saturday?” — that’s the feeling I want to experience before each story. That “Oh, yay! I’m about to laugh hard” feeling. Simple as that. Story League is your funny friend.
AG: What advice can you give those too shy to tell a story on stage, let alone SING too?
Buy a ticket and watch us do it! Problem solved.
AG: You’re from D.C. What is your favorite thing about coming to Philadelphia?
SM: I’m actually from Detroit! So both cities you just mentioned just seem like heaven to me. To answer you, though: I have a lot of romantic feelings toward Philly. It’s like no place else you can go. I lived there for years, starting with school and then staying. For the food. The walkability. For the architecture. The Mummers Museum. For the Quizzo. The sense of humor, which is so mean and rowdy—I love it. I host StorySlams for FPA sometimes, and I follow advice from my fellow FPA StorySlam host, Katonya Mosley, on audiences: “Just insult them! They love it.” The best part is, in Philadelphia they insult you right back! It’s fun, like two-way heckling.
AG: Considering this is the 13th Annual FPA Festival, can you tell us one of your favorite stories in 13 words?
SM: Pubescent boy uses lesbian chatrooms to get off, but the joke’s on him.
Be sure to grab your tix now to see Story League Sings at the First Person Arts Festival this November! FPA members receive a 20% discount on tickets. For more information about becoming an FPA supporter, click here.
– Alyssa Guckin, Marketing Intern