May 14, 2008

2nd Story: A Great Idea

A follow up to my previous post.

Normally, I wouldn't rise to the bait of an anonymous poster, but she called me on my snark, and this made me realize something that Sean has commented on before: from my blog postings, the reader can't tell what I actually feel about a subject. So here's an update.

Over in Chicago, Serendipity Theatre Company's got a good thing going with 2nd story, a monthly series and annual festival featuring personal storytelling at a popular wine bar. It sells out. It gets good press. It develops writers' performance skills and actors' writing skills. It celebrates the art of the well-told story.

And storytelling plus wine? That's a damn good idea. I wish more o.g. storytelling events featured wine.

Would that any venue I tell stories in is featured in a Zagat guide.

Jealous much? Yes, I am.

Because the old school storytelling community has missed the boat on this one. Dropped the ball. I looked at the roster of 2nd Story's storytellers. I looked at the behind-the-scenes organizers. I looked at the sponsors. Don't see any of the old guard. I can see storytellers skipping over WNEP's Skald (it's off-Loop, it's fringe, it's under-the-radar). I don't see how they could have missed this one.

(Am I missing something from two thousand miles away, just relying on Google? Yes, yes I am. Fill me in, Chicagoland people)

In my previous post, my use of the word "cringeworthy" wasn't a swipe at Ms. Stielstra, for her definition of storytelling. It was a swipe at the Chicago Storytelling Guild, who are either invisible or irrelevant in the Chicago arts community.

My remarks on the wine tasting at 2nd Story wasn't meant to be a swipe at the event. I just don't understand (not being an experienced wine taster or frequenter of wine bars myself) how the wine tasting and the storytelling go together. An organized wine tasting seems to me much more formal and stuffy than the communal, relaxed vibe that the storytelling can bring out. But I haven't been there. It works for 2nd Story.

2nd Story shows two things about the American Storytelling Revival:
1. That the Jonesborough, Tennessee-centric movement that started 35 years ago has narrowed its vision and become so inward-focused that it misses opportunities to connect with new audiences. (I've been saying this on the blog since the beginning)
2. The Revival of Storytelling will continue without them. The theatre and literary community, in recognizing the power of the personal story, are celebrating the art of storytelling. Hell, the business community, from "knowledge management" experts to marketing and branding gurus are carrying the storytelling torch, too (to my chagrin).

So, I apologize for not being clear.

But just we know, going forward: I've got my own biases and preferences:

I don't particularly care for personal memoir as a genre. (As if that's not clear already from my numerous entries on the toopic)

And reading a story out loud off of a piece of paper is storyreading, not storytelling, and isn't a performance art. And putting it on YouTube doesn't make it a better experience.

I like wine.


Granny Sue said...

I like wine too.

Good post, Tim. There are as many kinds of storytelling as there are venues to tell them, and vice versa. We just need to assume that storytelling fits, or find ways to make it fit.

Anonymous said...


Loren here to say that Howard Lieberman and I have done a wine tasting storytelling even in Stillwater, MN. It was great fun. 6 small plate tasting courses with 2 whites, three reds and a champagne. Stories about wine or the eects of wine in between each course.

The success of the event falls more on the wine bar side - if they dig the concept and promote it to their clientele, it will sell. Howard and I promoted it as well, but the bulk of the $50 per person event came from their effort.