Everyone's got a story to tell (or so it seems). The Phoenix literary scene is in full force, in part, due to the many live storytelling events popping up all over the city.
"There's a nice feedback that's occurring between these well-attended shows," says Jake Friedman, founder of Four Chambers Press. And, there are people working very hard to supply these recurring events.
They run the gamut from the more curated and theme-based, to off-the-cuff and open-mic. So, what is it about listening to someone tell a story? Says storyteller and writing-instructor Dan Hoen Hull, "It's the rawest form of connection." Stories help us feel connected to one another, and help us stay human. Plus, at these Valley events you don't always know what you'll hear, and that's half the fun. Why now? Hull says, "Phoenix both literally and metaphorically has the space." He also surmises that audience members feel comfortable listening to stories, not just because they're narrative in form, but because the storytellers have done the work.
We've compiled a list with all of the details for anyone wanting to attend an event, or who might be considering sharing a story of their own.
With the tag line, "True stories. And drinks," Bar Flies is the New Times' monthly storytelling event at Valley Bar in downtown Phoenix. The event is $5.
New Times managing editor Amy Silverman, co-curator of the event along with Katie Johnson, says, "We are looking for well-crafted memoir — it can be funny or sad or both, but it should resonate with the audience in a real way."
Bar Flies has a monthly theme and typically features five readers per evening with an accompanying DJ playing theme-related music. The event runs about an hour. Silverman says, "Our readers do tell stories, and there is performance involved, but they read from the page, which makes for a different experience."
In terms of what to expect out of the night: "We are looking to share good work with real meaning. And entertain the fuck out of you." If you're interested in reading, contact New Times managing editor Amy Silverman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next up is "The Single Life" at 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 4, at Valley Bar.
Yarnball, created by storyteller Dan Hoen Hull and Rachel Egboro, takes place weekly on Wednesdays 8 p.m. at Lawn Gnome. Yarnball is all-ages, uncensored (adult language and themes may be present), and operates on a first-come, first-served basis. The Wednesday night shows are open mic and improvisational. It's a great place to hear people experiment with new material and try stuff out. Hull says, "Yarnball is looking for people to tell stories from their lives in a three- to eight-minute time frame."
According to the team, "Yarnball storytelling is funny, brutal, intimate, gripping, inspiring, always alive." It's also outdoors, so plan accordingly. If you're going in January, bring a sweater or sit by the fire pit.
The night also features strong hosting by Rachel Egboro and Jessie Balli, who keep it all together and freshly fun, with Hull providing back-up support.
The next Yarnball is on January 20, and the theme is Modern Fairytales. The sign-up sheet will be ready at 7:30 p.m. to reserve a storytelling spot. Performers get in free, but the event costs $5 for everyone else.
The Storyline is the cool, mature sister of Yarnball. Also the brainchild of Dan Hoen Hull and Rachel Egboro, The Storyline is a more sophisticated affair where stories have been workshopped and rehearsed, and there is an interconnected-ness to the evening's group of stories. The Storyline rotates readers and writers, some first seen at Yarnball, and some from the broader community. It features first-person storytelling with an emphasis on performance. It demands a higher commitment level than Yarnball. "Storyline is about building a cohesive storytelling group," says Hull.
The Storyline's next event is Friday, January 29, at 8 p.m. at the Phoenix Changing Hands Bookstore at The Newton. The theme is "Forgotten, should all acquaintance be." with Phoenix chamber folk band, North Brother Island. The first hour will feature local storytellers, followed by an hour of live music. Tickets are $8.
Arizona Storytellers Project
Megan Finnerty of The Republic launched the most seasoned event, the Arizona Storytellers Project, in 2011. Arizona Storytellers features first-person, true stories that fit a theme. The venue for Arizona Storytellers changes from month to month, as does the cost (depending on seating capacity), but most months run between $10 to $12 per ticket. Expect to hear six to eight storytellers per evening.
Arizona Storytellers Project works in conjunction with South Mountain Community College's Storytelling Institute to help it's participants prepare their stories for the stage in the weeks prior to the event. A strong component of the night is around building space for community. Pieces, between 5-8 minutes in length, are memorized and performed by storytellers from the community. Interested in becoming a storyteller? Contact organizer Megan Finnerty at email@example.com with a 10-sentence outline of your story.
The next Arizona Storytellers event is at 7 p.m. on February 9 at Rebel Lounge. Tickets are $10. The theme is "Good Neighbors."
Relatively new on the scene is Spillers which features six local writers performing their best and edgiest short fiction. Robert Hoekman Jr. and Brian Dunn host Spillers — free in the lounge at the Crescent Ballroom.
The Spillers team says, "We look for stories that make us laugh, think, feel, with believable characters, motion, and change. We look for unique voices, distinct voices, true voices. We want writers who can present the best versions of their most distinct selves."
They also say they're aiming high for the Spillers No.3 event coming up February 1st. "We learned a tremendous amount during the first two events, and have since committed to crafting every detail — to make this Spillers bigger than the night itself." To that end they've just launched a podcast (see www.SpillersAfterShow.com). Episodes will be released weekly between events. They've redesigned their event website (www.Spillers.net), and they're publishing a collectible Spillers No.3 book, available the night of the event that will contain the six short fiction stories from the evening. To top it off, Crescent Ballroom is creating a custom cocktail for the event.
Spillers is held quarterly. Apply to be a Spiller at www.spillers.net. The next event is at 8 p.m. on February 1.
Uptown PEN (Poetry Evening Night)
Hosted by Jake Friedman, Founder of Four Chambers Press, Uptown PEN takes place the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at Practical Art.
Uptown PEN's cross-literary performers might read poetry, flash fiction, spoken word, or a prose piece in this friendly and intimate environment. The first hour of the evening is open mic, with a first-come, first-served sign-up sheet. The last half-hour is always dedicated to featuring the work of one local writer.
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Friedman says, "As the literary scene in Phoenix is developing, live storytelling is providing a bridge to other types of literary events." Four Chambers has played an active role is trying to help spread the word. Maybe, as Friedman suggests, "increased supply leads to increased demand."
The next Uptown PEN is February 9th, 7 p.m., and will feature Christopher Owens. It's free.
This annual event of large scale and interactive artwork along the Scottsdale Waterfront (on the banks of the Arizona Canal between Scottsdale and Goldwater roads) is now in its fourth year. Canal Convergence includes a ticketed storytelling event sponsored by Scottsdale Public Art and New Times that will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday, February 26, at Soleri Plaza on the Scottsdale Waterfront.
This year's theme is, "Stories With A Splash: A Birthday Party" in honor of Scottsdale Public Art's 30th anniversary. Tickets are $30.