If you follow this blog and What’s a Podcast for any time, you’re familiar with the storytelling night I ran. Being a fan of This American Life and The Moth radio hour, I became enamored with the compelling power of a well told story. I fell in love with the way comedians like Mike Birbiglia were able to incorporate life experience so flawlessly. I was dying to bring something like this to Hampton Roads. It began at one bar, years ago. The manager working the night I was booked seemed generally troubled by the fact I was trying to run a show. I remember asking him if I could trouble him to turn on the stage lights and microphone to which he replied simply with looking away and sighing like a teenager troubled to clean his room. Still, the show worked.
We moved venues a couple of times, from one bar to another. One bar, we got a lot of traction because the show simply took place in the smoking room of the bar. Eventually we stopped doing the show, as whenever you do a show at a bar, you have a certain number of variables. There’s the guy who just wanted to sit at a bar and drink a few beers in peace and quiet and didn’t really care to hear you talk into a microphone. There’s the table of guys who would rather be watching the game. There’s a table of girls who would rather listen to bad bar music and pound sugary drinks while talking amongst themselves.
Storytelling night had a devoted set of followers that slowly but surely became regulars. Eventually, Storytelling Night ground to a halt. I was bad at organizing it and promoting it. Factor in that with it being on once a month on Sundays, it would be canceled some months due to bar maintenance, Superbowl, Easter, etc… and it makes sense.
I felt like a failure. The art of Storytelling wanted a proper venue in Hampton Roads, and I felt as though I had let everyone down. Every once in a while, though, some of the people who had been involved in Storytelling Night in the past and say in passing, “hey, that was cool, you should bring that back.”
Eventually, enough people brought it up where I realized there was a real desire in this area for a show like this. I reached out to people. People better than me. People who have much better organizational skills. No longer was I the sole driving force behind making the show happen. Now there was a team. Deb Markham, blogger, podcaster and storyteller picked up the ball and ran with it. She worked with our friends at the Push theatre and convinced them we might be able to get one or two people to come out. She submitted the event to the Virginian Pilot’s events pages, which in turn actually brought out a reporter who covered the event.
What had once been me hoping to run a show at a bar all of a sudden became somewhat legitimized… we had a real theatre. Talent in this area had never been a real concern. Hampton Roads is so full of interesting people; that had never ever been a problem. So on our debut evening, a curious thing happened. We sold out the theatre. 90 seats, 90 butts in them. There were so many people interested in experiencing the stories in our community that we had to turn people away (obviously I wish they could have been there but better to turn people away than to beg for people to come in)! Our audience was along for the ride and completely interested. It was the best Storytelling night (now called Tell Me More) I’ve ever been a part of and it was only our first one.
Alright… I totally want to brag. But, again, the whole thing is not my sole doing by a long shot. The only reason it works is the coalition of people working together, Deb, the Pushers and their theatre and the enthusiastic charismatic people in Norfolk who have lived interesting lives.
It went so well. We’re going to be happening every third Sunday of the month. The next Tell Me More is Sunday, February 15 at the Push Comedy Theatre. More information can be found at TellMeMoreLive.org.