Storytime for Grownups
A preview by Mare Trevathan
Tell me about your childhood…
Did someone read aloud to you?
It felt nurturing, right? Someone gave you their time and focus, and you learned about new things, and maybe did some laughing or crying or both.
Some of us reclaim a bit of this former joy in our adult lives by listening to audiobooks; but something’s lost in the isolation of that experience.
“When people hear a story live, they feel and sense the emotional resonance in the room, which then impacts both the reading and hearing of the words,” says professional actor Betty Hart.
Hart, along with area favorites Jim Hunt and Emily Paton Davies, will be reading aloud to audiences as part of Stories on Stage’s “On the Couch” show, performing at Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center in Denver on Saturday, November 11.
“It’s instant empathy and connection,” says Stories on Stage Artistic Director Anthony Powell. “By sharing a story in a group setting, we get to FEEL what it’s like to walk around in someone else’s shoes, rather than simply understanding it on an intellectual level.”
Since 2000, Stories on Stage has been producing live readings of great fiction by great actors. Frequently, they’ve ventured into non-fiction work, as well, presenting autobiographical accounts of slavery, immigration, teen suicide, caregiving, and alcoholism. The local chapter of Red Cross gave Stories on Stage an “Everyday Heroes” Award for the organization’s work on inclusivity and for addressing issues of import.
For their regular series (“On the Couch” is the next of nine fiction performances Stories on Stage has scheduled this season), Powell looks for stories that are both funny and moving. “Like many Americans, I have a kind of love/hate relationship with psychiatry that I’m still trying to work out.. There’s a lot of drama to be found in the analytic process and a lot of comedy, as well. That combination makes it perfect for a Stories on Stage program!”
Emily Paton Davies is making her Stories on Stage debut with a story by the lauded novelist Amy Bloom. “Psychoanalysis Changed My Life” delves into the complex therapist-patient relationship when an elderly psychoanalyst abandons her lifelong counseling methods for a surprising and unorthodox approach. (Bloom herself is a psychotherapist.)
Betty Hart will read two stories: The Whole Truth by Stephen McCauley and Cheston by Jess Walter. Hart is especially intrigued by the main character of the former, who lies incessantly. “I’m on the path of honesty,” says Hart. “And I think what gets me about the story is that you can lie so much that you end up lying to yourself and not even recognize that you aren’t telling the truth.” McCauley is working with a producer to adapt The Whole Truth into a stage play.
Actor Jim Hunt will be reading what he calls a “crackerjack” story: Donkey Greedy, Donkey Gets Punched by Steve Almond, in which a poker champ seeks counseling from a recovering gambling addict. Says Hunt, “What I love the most is that Almond crafts the story like a poker game. Both guys are bluffing, and by the end, the reader is as breathless as someone at a poker table who has just called or raised a bet, hoping against hope that what’s in their hand will take the pot.”
“As a reader, I take my job very seriously, almost as if it’s sacred,” says Hunt. “I sense that I’m giving people something they’re hungry for, something they crave.”
Along with the stories come free cookies and milk. In case you crave those, too.
Saturday, November 11, 1:30pm and 7:30pm at Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, Denver, CO 80204.
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. https://www.storiesonstage.org/tickets.html