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The Better Face of Storytelling Competitions

I just got back from Jakarta where I was judging the Storytelling Competition for the Asian English Olympics. I'm not normally that keen on storytelling competitions, but I feel differently about this one. Firstly apart from the first round all the stories are improvised on the spot. So there is none of the spouting of memorised lines that I have seen in so many storytelling competitions. Of course the stories may be less polished and at times totally wacky, but the whole competition becomes one big learning experience.

I knew after the first day when I conducted the coaching clinic that these university and high school students from all over Indonesia, as well as Malaysia and the Philippines were something special. They were so enthusiastic and eager to learn.

The eventual winner was Simone Marie Sales from the Philippines and the 1st runner up was Alva Jonathan Susilo from Indonesia. Both were high school students. Simone spun improvised stories as if she had been practising them for weeks. I have never seen such storytelling skill in one so young. Alva just radiated his enthusiasm for telling and had a great connection with the audience.

This was competition, so there had to be winners, but I feel that everyone there, including me had a winning experience.

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Tags: Competition, Storytelling

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Comment by Sheila Wee on March 2, 2013 at 11:51pm

Hi Judith,

I'm from Singapore so very close to Indonesia.  Storytelling competitions are very popular in educational institutions in  the region, but many are more like rote memorisation contests, which is why this one was so refreshing. 

Comment by Judith Alexander on March 2, 2013 at 6:34am

Sounds really fun, and a great experience! I'm from the Pacific Northwest, and except for the Liars' Contest at Folklife Festival, I don't believe I have heard of storytelling competitions before.

Do you live in that part of the world?

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