- Written by Lynda Hudzick Lynda Hudzick
Randy Schulz isn’t afraid to be the “worst one in the room” at doing something, as long as it’s something he’s passionate about.
“I think when I was younger, I judged myself harshly,” he said. “If everyone around me is better at what I want to do, then I have found the right place to build skills in that area, and I am fortunate to be there.”
Always one who enjoyed writing and telling a story, Schulz spent most of his career working in sales, and the writing he did there was primarily business related. But “as I neared retirement, I became interested in Story Slams, which require you to tell a five-minute story without notes,” he said.
“I found that I liked to sculpture my words in my stories so they were exactly the way I wanted them, so rather than speaking extemporaneously, as many do, I started to memorize my five-minute stories.”
Schulz explained that Story Slams are open-mic, competitive storytelling events, but they are also “very collegial and collaborative in that a close-knit community tends to evolve of people who are very supportive and encouraging of each other’s work.”
Story Slam competitions are held nationally and internationally.
“There is an organization known as ‘The Moth,’ which is the mothership for Story Slams,” Schulz said. “Story Slams were derived from Poetry Slams, which were popular maybe 20-30 years ago.”
On a dare from his daughter, Schulz participated in his first Story Slam competition in Lancaster six years ago. Since then, he has participated in more than 30 competitions and has won several.
Recently, he was crowned the winner in the Lancaster competition under the category of “Cautious Optimism.” His winning story centered on his desire to gain a deeper understanding of the books of the Old Testament and explained how he wrote a poem that helped him to remember the order and focus of those books.
So how did this Chicago native, who holds an MBA from Drexel University and a Certificate in Biblical Studies from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in the Chicago area, become interested in poetry — both memorizing it and then writing his own — in the first place?
Upon his graduation from college, Schulz entered the military, where he was assigned to the Corps of Engineers in Germany. It was there that he first started memorizing poems and some of Shakespeare’s monologues and soliloquies to entertain himself.
“When I was in the military, I memorized a lot of poems that had to do with the military,” Schulz said. “I still like to memorize historical poems.”
An avid hiker, Schulz said that as much as he loves it, hiking can be very time consuming, so he wanted to keep his mind active as he hiked.
“I started listening to poetry while I hiked. Somewhere I heard that if you want to memorize pieces, it is a good idea to record a poem on your phone and listen to it repeatedly.”
He also said the technique has helped him memorize theatrical dialogue.
“I am going to be an actor in the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire this year for the first time. I have never been an actor before, so I am excited and a little nervous,” Schulz said. “I also know two Story Slam participants who are returning actors to the Ren Faire, and they encouraged me to try out for the cast.”
Schulz began writing his own poems to help him learn and remember things that were important to him. The prize-winning poem that Schulz talks about in his winning Story Slam presentation is only one of his poems written with a biblical focus.
“My biblical poems were written with the intent that they would be an aid to others who wanted to learn the Bible but who found themselves confused trying to make their way through all the details,” he said.
“I thought if I could write a poem that was lighthearted and entertaining, it would be an interesting summary of each book in the Bible.”
Whether he is participating in the dramatization of a personal story at a Story Slam competition or acting on the stage, all of these tools can work hand-in-hand to enhance the experience of his audience.
Schulz remembers once seeing an actor do a Story Slam presentation and was impressed with how they used their hands, face, and body to help them tell the story.
“I hope to do that and include it in the reciting of my Bible poetry.”
Big things may be in the works for Schulz and his unique poetry, including a possible foray into the Nashville music world.
“I shared a poem that I had written with some close college friends of mine,” he said. “One of those friends was particularly interested and had a friend who produces music in Nashville who showed some interest in the possibility of recording it as a song.”
That experience, among others, has given Schulz hope that his poetry projects could become something bigger.
“I have been performing or reciting these poems more recently, doing them at churches, schools, and on some small stages,” he said. “Beyond the music, being published as a book, and the performance of the individual poems, I hope to make a one-man show to perform them or have them made into a larger musical along the lines of Hamilton … someday.”
Fulfilling that someday-dream of his is going to be a process, of course, but Schulz is OK with taking things step-by-step and learning as he goes.
When he writes, Schulz feels the accomplishment line by line, “especially when I edit and a line comes out better than I thought it was on the previous attempt,” he said.
“I think word sculpting is my personal passion. I would encourage anyone to pursue their dreams … even if it is just one small step at a time.”
Genesis, Part I: Creation and Correction
By Randy Schulz
It all began when God spoke.
There was light and the world awoke,
In seven days, and it was good.
Garden of Eden — new neighborhood.
First two created, Adam and Eve
Lived in this garden with all they’d need.
But serpent fooled Eve, and Adam followed suit,
So from the garden, they’re given the boot
– God spoke!
Bad lin’age followed Abel and Cain
Till God decided to make it rain
To flood the earth and wash it clean,
For 40 days no land was seen.
But Noah, his fam, and two of each creature
Floated an ark, with no chance to beach her.
Till rainbow sign marked new beginning,
But man went right on sinning
– So God spoke.
Men built a tower, called it Babel.
God tumbled the tower and scattered the rabble.
A few folks learned, this is no joke,
So they listened, when God spoke.
Abraham seeds a great nation’s rise —
Offspring like stars in the skies.
Then generations through Isaac and Jacob blessed,
And Joseph to Egypt, the family progressed
– When God spoke.