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Monday November 29th

Hippo Awards will honor storytellers Saturday

<p>Jeff Polish is the founder of and executive director of the Monti. Photo Courtesy of Jeff Polish.</p>
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Jeff Polish is the founder of and executive director of the Monti. Photo Courtesy of Jeff Polish.

The Monti, a Triangle-based storytelling organization, is hosting its 9th Annual Hippo Awards to honor its top contributors from 2016. The event is set for Saturday night at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro. 

Jeff Polish, executive director of The Monti, said storytellers are not allowed to use notes in order to preserve the intimacy between the story and its audience.

“There is no reading at The Monti,” he said. 

Polish founded the organization with a vision of community members coming together to share their narratives. The name of the awards ceremony has a story of its own.

Before the organization was founded, Polish and his now-wife were on a canoe ride on the Zambezi River during an African safari when their boat was overturned by a hippo.

“It was purely by the grace of the animal that we survived,” Polish said.

Much like the couple’s close encounter with the hippo, stories told at The Monti touch on the frailty of human existence and the conflicts that humans can overcome, Polish said. After his encounter with the hippo, Polish said he now seeks new perspectives from other storytellers.

Hippo Awards are distributed for best comedy, drama and overall story. Polish said The Monti stresses the importance of balancing genre variety in the shows to make sure each story is as impactful as possible.

In addition to the awards presentation, Saturday’s events will also include storytellings by both new and veteran Monti voices. There are four requirements storytellers must follow: All stories must be true, told without notes, be told in under 12 minutes and revolve around a central theme. This month's theme — confrontations — was selected because it can be interpreted in a variety of ways, Polish said.  

“If someone asked me to name five themes I thought my story was about, I probably wouldn’t have said confrontations, but people get different things from stories,” storyteller Hannah Strom said. 

Saturday will mark Strom’s first story told with The Monti.

Erin Duffy, a 2016 Hippo Award nominee for Best Dramatic Story, will be telling her fourth story at The Monti on Saturday. She has also participated several times in The Monti StorySLAM, the organization’s competitive open mic series.

Duffy’s advice to aspiring storytellers: Let your guard down.

“Just try it — it’s fun,” she said.

Since the organization’s debut show in 2008, The Monti has drawn such a following of community members that tickets, sold for $22 each, are known to sell out fast.

Saturday’s event is at The ArtsCenter at 300-G E. Main St. Doors will open at 7 p.m. and shows will begin at 8 p.m. 

@carriepolen20

city@dailytarheel.com

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