BY JACKI HUNT
The power of storytelling entered my life when National Public Radio introduced Story Corps in 2003. The stories of everyday people unfolding through interviews by a friend or relative became an important part of my week. The power of those interviews was magnified thousands of times by the sharing of the stories with the larger community listening on the radio.
Several years later, Pam Monk brought together a group of people to tell their stories in a style that has been promoted by a group called “The Moth” — true stories, told without a script. The teller can rehearse the story and have an outline in mind, but it isn’t a performance — it’s telling a story that is his or hers alone to tell.
Monk’s small group of storytellers expanded and eventually moved to The State Theatre for a monthly event called “State of the Story,” with a different story theme for each month. The event continued to grow with new tellers sharing their stories with appreciative audiences. Monk created the position of “co-ringleaders” — two people who help the storytellers hone their stories in preparation for the evening event each month.
In February 2016, Jackie Hook and I were the “co-ringleaders” around the theme “Growing from Loss through Grief to Transformation.” If I had any doubts about the need for such a theme, they were quelled by the number of people who came and filled the space in The Attic at The State Theatre. Every story, as every teller, was unique. A young soccer team remembered their disbelief at the death of their friend, and then brightened up as they recounted fun times they had had together. A woman who lost her son and carried the burden of his death for years until she was able to baptize herself in the healing waters of a quiet retreat and find peace. A man who mourned the loss of his beloved dog, vowed not to open himself up to such pain again, and then adopted a dog that needed his love so much that the dog actually rescued him.
The power of those stories, along with the others that were told, was carried beyond that evening. I found myself listening to stories of loss from friends who had been there that night as we met for lunch or a cup of coffee. It almost felt like permission had been granted to talk, and it felt good.
This past February, we had our second storytelling based on the theme of loss — this time the title was “Loving through it.” The storytellers met several times before the evening event and shared their stories with each other, but this group was somewhat different from the first one. Most of them knew each other already. Yet rehearsing their stories together, offering support in the telling and the living of the stories, created a bond that drew them closer. That night at The State Theatre was very much like the evening the year before — powerful stories told aloud to a friendly audience eager to hear them. Yet tough as the stories were to tell, the universe heard them, and we were all the better for it.
What’s your story? We are ready to listen.