5.29 The Stories We Don't Tell
Almost a month ago, I had the privilege of telling one of my stories alongside four other great storytellers. The inaugural Stories We Don’t Tell hit the Toronto storytelling scene with a bang. We’re gearing up for our second event at the end of October, and I am still so proud of the success of our first one. About a year ago, Brianne Benness started a writing group called Let’s Get Personal. The idea was to share stories about ourselves with each other in a safe environment. Soon, Stefan Hostetter, Erin Kang and Jeanette Stock joined the group and although I don’t want to speak for everyone, I’ve been impacted by the experience of getting together every two weeks and reading things out loud I wouldn’t read anywhere else.
I’m a big fan of when things progress naturally. Over the summer, we started checking out different storytelling events around the city. We were looking for an event to participate in, a place where we could bring our stories beyond the group. We saw many great events, but couldn’t find one that aligned with the stories we wanted to tell. So, in a totally organic way, we just decided to create our own event.
The first thing we did was set a date. Once we had a date, we were committed. And I will say one thing about our little group, we are a committed bunch with a tremendous amount of buy-in. Five of us picked a story each and we prepared and practiced. This was an important part to our event, we wanted to make sure we were ready and have the audience understand on some level that we thought this out and we were prepared.
The event was held at Stefan’s apartment and we fit almost fifty people in there. Each of us went up and told our stories. Again, I can’t speak for anyone else, but my experience was quite amazing.
A deep secret of mine was that I wanted to perform my own work in some way. I have no desire to be an actor and although I’m a huge fan of standup comedy, I’m not interested in doing bits or telling jokes. Where does that leave me? I came across writers like David Sedaris and David Rakoff a few years ago and noticed that they are reading their work, but adding some performance elements to it. But still no place existed for me to do this. And as things do, the place for this revealed itself. The writing group led to the storytelling group, which happened to coincide with a surge in storytelling events. I fucking love when shit like that happens.
So, I’m no performer. I get nervous speaking in front of people, although there’s some part of me that’s always liked it. That night at our first event, I was nervous, but then something happened. Another project that has become important to me, the Open Kwong Dore Podcast, taught me to listen to other people and just be present. When it was my turn to tell my story, I felt a wave of energy from the audience and they cheered for me. Cheered. New experience. And I just tried to listen to them and be present. Paused when they wanted me to, when the writing told me to. What was amazing was that the audience laughed where I hoped they would and they were listening attentively at other, more serious times. And then they cheered more at the end.
The success of this event was due to Brianne, Stefan, Erin, Jeanette and I trusting each other and working at putting on a quality event. Really, the only thing we require for storytellers at our event is at some point in the story, there is a place where the speaker is vulnerable. I believe that people are starved for these kinds of stories and if we stay true to this, our storytellers will be sharing a piece of themselves, and hopefully each month the event will be just as successful as this first one. By sharing vulnerable stories, the potential exists to open a dialogue with the audience and this happened at our first event.
And I was very happy with the outcome of my own performance. I learned from it immediately and knew how to make it better. And I can’t fucking wait to get back up there.
Check out the stories from this event on this week’s Open Kwong Dore Podcast.
The Stories We Don’t Tell is brought to you by The Reapers. Please check the website for other side projects: the reapers.org.
If you’re in Toronto, come to the Garrison on October 28 for Ghost Stories Told Live. A special event put on by Marsha Shandur and the popular True Stories Told Live. I’ll be performing one of my ghost stories - yes, now I’m addicted to live storytelling.