12th & Broad

Jan. 15, 2014 10:34 PM

Start the Car: Story slams take root

Start the Car ElenaMegalosGalapagosArtSpace A Start the Car performance: Elena Megalos at Galapagos Art Space. Start the Car

Eric Gauen sways as he plays the accordion and his guitar tunes loop in the background. He gives the audience a moment to catch up, then digs in with a comedic tall tale.

"From the road, we see a very bright house in a very dark town," Gauen begins as he bends low, hands jutting out toward the crowd. Neon images of bearded faces and country homes flash on the projector screen. "Even the lawn was scattered with fully lit jars."

Gauen weaves a story with a writer's detail and a comedian's timing as his plot jumps from rural scenes to car chases to runaways. He is a player within a movement of performance art called storytelling, and his Brooklyn-born storytelling series, dubbed Start the Car, is taking hold in Nashville.

Start The Car Nashville Start the Car: Treasure, takes place in Nashville January 18 at Boheme Collectif. Submitted - Art by Asa Gauen

Start the Car is a storytelling series featuring a rotating lineup of storytellers who offer nonfiction and fictionalized stories based around themes. During a storytelling evening, five to six local storytellers, authors and artists perform stories that are six to 12 minutes long, and are encouraged to supplement their narratives with multimedia.

"What triggered the project was the desire to use minimal technology to simplify a thought," said Gauen, who began hosting storytelling events with his cousin, Asa, in Brooklyn more than a year ago. "The market's been oversaturated with special effects and digital-enhanced experiences. Simple but powerful plot lines have been lost in big productions."

The cousin duo started performing with friends, for friends.

"We began as the Christmas storytelling band and we went to house parties," said Gauen, who plays several instruments, including guitar, piano and accordion. "We showed up to Christmas parties with a projector, violin and narrative and we'd perform offbeat holiday-themed shows. Then the Galapagos Art Gallery picked us up to do regular performances and the series was born."

Start the Car collaborated with artists and directors from Moth — the New York-based not-for-profit organization dedicated to the craft of storytelling — to design storytelling evenings that maximize art spaces as interactive stages.

"We've had storytellers use photography, animations, stop-motion, illustrations, live music, prerecorded music and sound effects," he said. "Our pieces often play off nostalgia and comedy, but some are intended to be more serious."

Earlier this year, Gauen and his wife packed their bags and left the Big Apple for Music City. Here, he discovered an underserved subculture of storytellers and enthusiasts.

"The team was split geographically, but we decided to make it work," said Gauen, who now hosts storytelling events in Brooklyn, Nashville and Indianapolis. "Clearly Nashville is a very artistic community with a ton of writers and visual artists. The art of storytelling has come back in a big way because people connect with simple stories."

Start the Car is hosting its first public storytelling event this Saturday, Jan. 18, at Boheme Collectif at 7 p.m. Performers were tasked with crafting stories around a theme of treasure, and the night will incorporate music, drama and comedy.

"We see the storytelling events being seasonal, but are open to expansion based on local response," Gauen said. "I want the event to be a place where artists can come and use all facets of creativity: writing, illustrating, using film and composing music."

Tickets are $8 and can be purchased online or at Boheme Collectif, located at 919 Gallatin Ave., Space 8.

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Start the Car Start the Car in Nashville Submitted - Art by Asa Gauen