Changing the Narrative: Stories on Stage
A preview by Mare Trevathan
Oh, wow. Did you see Twitter?
Here, sit down. We don’t have to talk. In fact, let’s just be quiet for a bit and listen to something elevating. Or funny! How about funny?
Have a cookie. It’s homemade.
If the fever and furor of our era has you fevery and furious, consider a well-deserved break from the mania to join Stories on Stage for some excellent stories performed by excellent actors.
Now in its 18th season, Stories on Stage uses live reading as a way of nurturing empathy, compassion and connection. “It reminds us we’re not alone in the world,” says Artistic Director Anthony Powell. “We’re not isolated.”
“There’s no choice but to hear the story a different way than you would listening to an audiobook,” says Brynn Tucker-Headington, most recently seen as the female lead in both “Cyrano de Bergerac” and “Love’s Labour’s Lost” at Colorado Shakespeare Festival.
“In a live performance,” she says, “you are literally breathing the same air as everyone, feeling each other’s energy. It’s like doing yoga at home to a YouTube video versus taking a class with a group of people. In the class there is atmosphere, music, chimes, scents, and a live instructor that is catering the experience to the group. Everyone is a part of something and then it’s gone, never to be repeated again. There’s something very special about that.”
“There is nothing staid about it,” says actor Chip Persons, a frequent performer with Stories on Stage. “It’s one of the great forms of theatre, and one of the very oldest and most fundamental, in which the actor– with nothing else at hand than themselves– can do nothing else than the most vital task of illuminating the text. Together, performer and audience collaborate in summoning these stories to visit upon the room, and the journey is shared. The lesson is learned, the heartache is unburdened by sharing the weight with friends, the poison is drained away.”
Persons, Tucker-Headington, and Rhonda Brown (known to Denver area audiences for her acclaimed portrayal of the vibrant Molly Ivins in “Red Hot Patriot”) will perform short stories about family in “It’s All Relatives” at Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center in Denver on Sunday, September 16.
The show features poignant short fiction by Jess Walters and Meron Hadero, as well as hilarious and outrageous autobiographical stories from Tom Papa and Rhonda Brown herself.
“I found Jess Walter’s story ‘Mr. Voice’ first,” says Powell, who curates, directs, and hosts Stories on Stage’s shows. “I just loved it. It’s about a relative who appears to be a human void… but then turns out to have a lot of heart and credibility. It’s a very moving story and made me want to tell the stories of all kinds of families.”
Meron Hadero’s story, ‘The Suitcase’, is about a woman visiting her family’s homeland in Ethiopia, bringing with her a bag of gifts from America. As her trip home approaches, her Ethiopian relatives all vie for space in the suitcase to send gifts back, to remind the Americans of the land and people left behind.
There are three short stories from comedian Tom Papa’s “Your Dad Stole My Rake”, read by Persons. “I hope this isn’t a spoiler,” says Persons, “but I think I’ll have to hold for laughs after the opening line of the story ‘Your Cousins WIll Ruin Your Life’.” :
“This is a story about why it’s not a good idea to smoke pot with your cousins when you’re ten.”
Rhonda Brown’s story is about her mother: a larger-than-life Tennessee broad with a criminal history. “Rhonda wrote this as part of a writing contest we hosted last year, and I knew we HAD to do it at some point,” Powell says. “The ‘Mr. Voice’ story was just perfect for her as a performer, so it all fell into place with this show.”
“It’s All Relatives” is the first of nine fiction performances Stories on Stage has scheduled as part of its subscription season. Each show is curated around a theme, from unusual romances, to whodunits; from Ethics to the vagaries of Hollywood. The season also includes the return of longtime crowd favorite “Making Merry”– the annual winter holiday show with stories and music from the beloved Gary Grundei, Jamie Horton and GerRee Hinshaw; plus “A Typewriter Revolution”, the latest offering from Stories on Stage’s eleven-year collaboration with Buntport Theater.
In addition to the “regular” season, Stories on Stage works with youth, bringing bilingual stories from Latin America to elementary schools and a suicide prevention program to 8th graders.
Binding all of Stories on Stage’s programming together is the focus on “recognizing something universal about living on Planet Earth,” says Powell. “I love it when people come up to me after the show and say, ‘This reminds me of my life. Of how we can be better people. And kinder to one another.”
“It’s All Relatives” performs Sunday, September 16, at 1:30pm and 6:30pm at Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, Denver, CO 80204. Suggested for ages 16+.
Tickets are $15-28 (no fees!), with “scholarships” available to those in financial need at storiesonstage.org or 303-494-0523. Seating is General Admission. The show is followed by free milk and homemade cookies.