Hearing emotional storiesby Penelope Starr on Apr. 10, 2012, under Arts
I was worried that the theme for the last Odyssey Storytelling, “Sliced and Diced: the Surgery Show,” would scare people away. Lots of people are squeamish about hearing “organ recitals” – stories with gory details about medical procedures. I did not know who would be attracted to hear the stories and I really didn’t know who would be interested in telling.
I had quite a surprise at the rehearsal for the show. Associate Producer Adam Hostetter was curator and that means that he gathered the storytellers together either by responding to inquiries or by actively searching them out. The diversity of the stories was stunning and the tellers were equally sincere in telling some astonishing tales.
But it was “heavy” – so much so that I shed a tear or two through a few tellings. As founder of Odyssey and producer for the past 8 years, I am very protective of the audience and I want everyone to have a “good time.” After the rehearsal I confided to Adam and Associate Producer Sarah K. Smith that I felt I should put a warning label on the website, an “R” rating, as it were, to indicate adult themes that included violence and carnage. They were both appalled that I would do such a thing. They had much more confidence in the ability of the listeners to make their own decisions.
And they knew that audience members want to be moved; to have an authentic experience. That’s why the audience is there – even if it involves dealing with difficult subjects. In the past we have heard stories about cruelty and fear, hostility and acts of vengeance along side of stories of redemption, charity and love. So what was my problem?
Upon reflection I had to admit that I was the skittish one when it comes to “slicing and dicing” and I was projecting my fears on the audience. They, of course, rose to the occasion and were appropriately appreciative of the depth of feelings expressed.
My take-home lesson is to listen to my own words when I insert this disclaimer in the monthly program:
Storytelling is a way to make connections with diverse and different people that you may not meet in your everyday life. Because people are telling stories from their lives they may be amazing, messy, enlightening, disturbing, profound and entertaining. Our storytellers have guidelines but they are uncensored.