The Northampton Arts Council works to support and nurture the arts in the city of Northampton. The Council awards grants twice each year to artists and arts groups from both state and locally-raised funds, and seeks to improve public awareness of the arts. Its' goals include maintaining and preserving the rich and diverse cultural heritage of Northampton, programming such annual events of interest to the community as First Night Northampton and Transperformance.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

"RADICAL ACTS" in Five Minutes: Ko Festival Story Slam

WHAT: "RADICAL ACTS" Ko Festival Story Slam
WHEN: Saturday, July 21, 8:00pm
WHERE: Holden Theater at Amherst College, 200 S Pleasant St, Amherst MA

AMHERST, MASSACHUSETTS– Since 2011, Ko Festival of Performance has hosted story slams: a fast-paced evening of true stories. This year’s “Radical Acts” themed story slam can be seen for one night only on July 21 in the Holden Theater at Amherst College. For reservations please go to, call (413) 542-3750, or email

Ko Festival Artistic Director, Sabrina Hamilton says, "each summer the Ko Festival is curated on a theme that we think is timely and of compelling interest to people in the Pioneer Valley. The festival becomes a kind of five-week think tank, each week we present a different show that offers a different and entertaining lens on the theme.  Most of the Ko Festival artists come from across the country - this year, Detroit, Pennsylvania, San Francisco - and yes, Amherst. But we like to get more local participation into the mix and thus, most of the Story Slam storytellers are local. The Slam is a chance to hear stories from our neighbors about their own experiences as they relate to the theme." Previous summer story slam themes have included: “Secrets,” "Age & Aging,” Courage,” “Work | Job | Career | Calling,” “Fish Out of Water,” and last summer’s “Tactics for Trying Times.”

This summer KoFest is focusing on “Radical Acts.” Stories must be true, first person (though they need not be about the storyteller, there does need to be some first-hand involvement or witnessing). Stories are told live and without notes and must be 5 minutes or under. A gentle warning tone is sounded at four minutes and a far louder chime at the cut-off point. Hamilton says laughingly, "storytellers are allowed to finish the sentence they’re in the middle of — but no run-on sentences!”  There are 3 sets of 5 storytellers. 

Many of the performers will be telling stories that they have worked on in the 6-day FIRST PERSON: Crafting Your Story for Performance” workshop that Ko offers each summer. The sold out class is taught by Jerry Stropnicky, a multi-faceted theatre artist (director, writer and actor) who has traveled widely, creating original large-scale, site-specific performances in communities facing trauma, crisis, transition, or change. For this work, as well as for his role in co-founding the national Network of Ensemble Theaters, Jerry was honored as a United States Artists Fellow in 2010. More information about Stropnicky available at

Others who are interested in pitching a story can email with their contact information (including a phone number), a brief bio, and a description of the story they’d like to tell.  Most of the roster of storytellers will be set before the event, but Ko also saves at least one “wildcard” slot to be given away before the last set. If there are more people interested in these slots than there is space for on the roster - prospective storytellers audition their first lines and then the audience decide which story they’d like to hear in its entirety. In fact, the Grand Prize winner of Ko’s very first Story Slam, the “secrets” one, Amherst resident Anne Burton, was so inspired by the stories she has heard that she found the courage to tell her own hysterically funny of her experience of moving from a desk job to a floor job at the Playboy Bunny Club in NYC.

Each audience member is given a ballot on the way into the nicely air-conditioned Holden Theater, and they vote for winners in 3 categories: Most Poignant or Moving, Most Humorous, and Best Storytelling Skills. The person getting the most overall votes wins the Grand Prize. There are festive refreshments and prizes. Hamilton adds, “the story slam is immensely popular. It usually sells out - probably because we are blessed to live in an area rich with story and full of talented raconteurs. The event is also our annual fundraiser that is part of the funding package that allows Ko to bring a 27th season of exciting work to the Valley. So at the end of the evening - we feel that everyone is a winner."

The Ko Festival of Performance Story Slam will be held one night only: Saturday, July 21 at 8:00 PM. KoFest performances take place in Amherst College’s air-conditioned Holden Theater, located behind the Admissions Office off South Pleasant Street in Amherst, MA. Tickets are priced at: $16 General and $10 for SNAP/EBT cardholders. Tickets are available at, by email at, and by phone at (413) 542-3750. The box office phone line is staffed daily from 1-5 and 1 to curtain on performance days.

About The Ko Festival 
The Ko Festival of Performance, in its 27th summer season on the Amherst College campus, is a perennially popular summer experience in Western Massachusetts, featuring five weeks of theatrical performances, the KoFest Story Slam, and three 6-day intensive theater workshops. Unlike standard summer stock theater, Ko Festival performances are all original, devised pieces, created by distinguished professional solo and ensemble theatre artists from across the U.S.  Each year, the performances at Ko are curated around a theme designed speak to area audiences. This year it’s “RADICAL ACTS” and audiences will have an opportunity to meet a group of 60’s radicals, hear true tales of going AWOL in the jungle, examining one’s relationship with the planet and the courage to create. Lively post-performance discussions, often with guest experts, follow each of the performances.

The Ko Festival, where the only certainty is surprise!


Funded, in part, by The Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency, the Amherst Cultural Council, a local agency supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency, The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts/Valley Gives, and Art Angels.

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