Interview with Jessica: Storytelling

We think conversation is one of the most fun parts of language learning. On Thursdays, we switch languages and ask each other questions to learn more about Tuesday’s topic. Today, Rober interviews Jessica about the Tell Us Something storytelling event she attended on October 2. You can read Jessica’s original post about the show here

Rober: In your opinion, which was the most interesting story?
Jessica: It’s a little bit of a cop out to say all of them, but I really wasn’t in the mindset of choosing when I attended this event. However, I had been reading a lot about traumatic brain injury recently and one of the stories was about how the speaker had been in a car accident when he was a teenager and his chances of survival had been next to nothing, so that one drew me in right away. The podcast of the event isn’t out yet, but you can listen to it and decide for yourself!   

A “sold out” theater

R: Were the stories based on true events? What were they about?
J: The stories are always based on true events. The have to have something to do with the evening’s theme, but there is plenty of room for interpretation within that. The first storyteller at this month’s show talked about the process of finding her birth parents when she was in her twenties and the complicated feelings surrounding that. Another storyteller told about buying a used car. Some of the stories dealt with heavy issues like domestic abuse and drug addiction, while another one was about cooking a signature dish. I think that one of the interesting things about this type of event is that once you start listening to a few of these, it’s easier to see the stories in your own life.  

A story call from an earlier event

 R: Have you ever thought of participating or telling a story in “Tell US Something”? Have you ever done anything similar?
J: Yes, I’ve thought about it and I expect I will try to do it at some point. I have been thinking about ideas for the “Did that Really Happen?” theme, so we’ll see. In high school I was really active in the theater department, so I did a lot of performing on stage, but it was usually scripted. Marc said that writers sometimes struggle with the process because they want to write the story down and that it is important not to over practice your story. He recommends people just write bullet points so you know where you’re going, but you can make the transitions more natural. 

R: Are there any other similar events in Missoula or in nearby cities? Are these kinds of events popular in the U.S.?
J: Tell Us Something has recently branched out to other cities in Montana. They have a show coming up in Butte on November 7. Since Marc is based in Missoula, though, he’s most focused on the events here. After the December 11th show, there will have been four shows in Missoula this year. As far as country-wide events, a lot of people have heard of the Moth, which is a worldwide organization, but also most well-known in the U.S. The format is similar, the stories are true and the storytellers don’t use notes. I think that this kind of story telling is especially popular right now; there is a desire to hear everyday people talking about things that happened to them.


R: As a member of the audience, what did you think about the storytellers? Did they seem tense when they told their stories?
J: Actually, everyone seemed surprisingly comfortable on stage. I hadn’t been inside the Wilma Theater for several years and it has since been renovated to include a balcony with more seating. That is to say, it was an even larger venue than I was expecting – they were really addressing a crowd. I imagine the workshop process helps to make people more comfortable with their story. I know that would help me, just to know that a few people had heard it already. I think it’s also a pretty supportive audience. Many of the speakers are long-time community members, so they are often talking about places you know, or sometimes even people you know. I don’t think that’s essential to this type of event, but I do think that it helps it feel more intimate.

Photos courtesy of KMR studios via Marc Moss and Tell Us Something.

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