So people ask, “What is this Here’s the Story?” And if you didn’t know me, you’d think having been there as the germination seeds were sown I’d know the answer. That I’d understand, at least, my own vision for the event. But I sort of don’t understand, and honestly I sort of don’t want to understand. Because to understand it would likely paint me as an architect, and rather than be an architect, I think what Janna and I want is for us to just be open and present to the storytelling movement here in Chicago. A movement that is organic in nature, in that it’s real, and not caused by astroturfing, slick ads (of which there are a few), or big money. It’s coming from elsewhere. It’s coming from more people connecting, from people of diverse backgrounds saying, “Hey this is cool, let’s be involved.”
But one can’t go around telling people, “I’ve started a monthly story gathering in order to just be open to the possibilities that might arise from promoting such a field of dreams.” So let me talk a bit about my raison d’etre . . . at least as best as I can. Let me talk about how I see it as it stands now, and in particular as it stands for May 4th’s Picnic at Stage 773.
Late at night, over a plate of paprica’d hummus, I found myself arguing with Janna and Nathan about how I want to see blood and tears between bitter storytelling rivals. They both made it known that they had no intention of seeing people cry, on stage or off, and that they felt a warm and welcoming gesture was needed. They won over my dead cold stone heart.
Part of allowing for an atmosphere of saying yes, and being truly open is to start things off without goals other than to come and be a part. As soon as you walk into the door of a Here’s the Story event, you’ve succeeded. Part of the process is allowing for the natural occurrence of fecundity, eloquence, and the synchronicity of generous gathering in order to set the stage as a place we can all feel welcome, both on and off. With that in mind, we hope to take the stage together as a unified front. A front that stands against the tyranny of stage fright, the tyranny of a stage that seems all too often unassailable. Whether that’s because it’s deemed a place reserved only for those who’ve entered into a mystical old boy’s art club through secret handshakes and blood-pacts, or because it’s looked upon as a place reserved only for those who wish to be judged harshly by critics, professional and amateurish alike, we come together this month to say, a Here’s the Story stage is a place welcoming and friendly, a place to Participate rather than watch.
Janna, she tells me, “I used to tell people back in San Francisco that if there is a moment where they think, Oh! That’s the story I need to tell, then it’s very likely that someone in the audience needs to hear that story. It’s just the way things work, the subtle way we communicate to each other subconsciously, the way our unique experiences converge. I want a place where people feel safe to tell the stories other people need to hear.”
I am thinking now about the idea of orphaned stories, not the stories that people stop telling, but rather the ones that seem without a receptive audience. Because that’s what stories are for, not the teller but the listener–it is being told for another. It is a communication, not just an entertainment, but rather a whole slew of complicated and generous love. This May 4th, I want to be the audience for abandoned stories. I want to be the one in the audience who needs to hear exactly what the tellers bring.
And so no blood, no tears, but instead we are going to sit around the stage with good food brought from all around (it is a potluck after all), listen to our froofy hearts, contemplate the prompts, take them or leave them, and hear the stories meant for just us. Because on May 4th at 7:30 it’ll just work out that way. You’re invited to come early and stay late.