Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Storytellers Tell Tall Tales in Short Order

Unchained storyteller Tim Manley brings audience member Lynn Roberts to the stage to tell a tale.
Unchained storyteller Tim Manley brings audience member Lynn Roberts to the stage to tell a tale.

Unchained is taco soup for the storytelling soul

By Wayne Andrews, Director, Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, yacdirector@gmail.com

Photos by Mike Stanton, mikstanton@gmail.com

Generally it is considered polite for the audience watching a performance on stage to sit quietly. It is a sign of appreciation and respect for the work of the performers on stage. Unchained, emceed by bearded behemoth Peter Aguero on January 15, demanded the audience stand and dance while singing chorus of a song written by a six-year old named Lazlo. “I like spaghetti, I like spaghetti, your mom has big momma jug ears” was not what the crowd at the Powerhouse expected to be chanting during the storytelling event.

Unchained features modern day storytellers’ sharing witty and touching insights into their lives. The stories shared by six different performers ranged from childhood experiences, the tribulation of financial and emotional oblivion when filing for bankruptcy, and the deep stain left on one’s soul and other parts when you’re on board a commuter train for a long ride after having four bowls of spicy taco soup. This roving band of storytellers needed a warm audience, as they have been traveling around in a restored 1972 Blue Bird Bus performing across the South. The idea behind the tour was to restore the art of communication and sharing—disconnecting from the text, internet, and tablet world and interacting face-to-face where stories were based on the front porch.

Author George Dawes Green, founder of The Moth and Unchained, sought to create an evening where the unscripted domain of the raconteur was celebrated. The event featured a reception with local storytellers, authors, and artists prior to members of Unchained taking the stage. Those taking the stage were not professional performers but individuals whose unique life experiences offer a chance to show how the tales of a World Champion Poker player held similar threads to those tales of members of the audience. Annie Duke, a professional poker player and author, shared how playing games with her family as a child shaped her professional life and even brought her and a brother together during troubling times. Emcee Peter Aguero, who hosts The Moth Story Slams, shared his intimate tale of too many bowls of taco soup and a long train ride.

The storytellers of Unchained hope to inspire those who attend to begin to tell their own stories. Audience members were baptized in the experience by being called onto stage and being given a subject and a time limit of one minute to tell a story. Unburdened by the opportunity to prepare or write a story, the audience members shared touching and personal tales related to the subject, which was the word “cold.” Betsy Chapman shared how seeing snow for the first time caused her to worry that power would go out, and she cooked meals feverishly until she missed the chance to play in the snow with her daughter.

 

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