Storytelling series debuts

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The new quarterly series, relocated to Pittsburgh from Los Angeles by its creator, premiered here to a full house at Bricolage’s Downtown space last Friday.

WordPlay is storytelling with a beat: True stories told live on stage, with a soundtrack provided by a DJ. WordPlay creator Alan Olifson says he was inspired by the use of music on public radio’s This American Life, but the style also suggests The Moth plus music.

Olifson, a deft comic, also hosts Pittsburgh’s monthly Moth StorySLAMs, at the Rex Theater.

Friday night’s show at Bricolage, in fact, brought back three of the tellers who performed at January’s Moth Grand SLAM, at the New Hazlett: Todd Shaffer, Nora McLoughlin and David Harris-Gershon.

Harris-Gershon, who won that earlier contest, in fact told the same story, a doozy about posing as a woman in online chat rooms to win votes for Obama in 2008. Other highlights included McLoughlin’s “The Trouble With Monks,” about her arcane academic ventures in Ireland, and Olifson’s wincingly hilarious “Making the Cut,” about — yes — being asked to hold his nephew during the infant’s bris. The other teller Friday was Amanda Hamilton Roos.

The DJ was DJ Firefly, who hosts a show on WRCT and DJs at Remedy.

I was of two minds about the musical component. On the one hand, many of DJ Firefly’s choices were inspired. (I’m thinking especially of “Poppa’s Got a Brand New Bag” to close Olifson’s story, which … well, you had to be there.) On the other hand, I often found myself trying to identify the song rather than listening to the story. And in any case, the soundtrack needn’t be wall-to-wall to work; accents and flavoring, like they do it on TAL, can work better.

Still, Friday’s five stories, comprising an hour-long show, left everyone satisfied.

Olfison is seeking submissions for the next WordPlay, scheduled for Sept. 6. For details, email submissions@wordplayshow.com.

And for storytelling fans — who seem to be in a growing demographic nowadays — the next Moth StorySLAM happens next Tuesday, with the theme “Fathers.”

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