On a list of risky activities, story-telling ranks well below sky-diving, cliff-jumping and driving anywhere in Westport.
But — at least at an event like the Fairfield Theater Company’s “Off the Wall Community Storytelling” — there’s an element of risk. And it involves the audience as well as the storyteller.
The monthly events — held at the company’s Stage One, and co-created by Westporter Ina Chadwick — are part of a new national interest in storytelling.
Community storytelling draws strangers together through a shared experience. It happens in a way far more spontaneous and intimate than a stage performance.
Last month’s “Off the Wall Community Storytelling” included 6 storytellers from Westport, Weston, Fairfield, Norwalk and Bridgeport. Some were well known, like actor Keir Dullea. Others were complete unknowns. All had stories to tell.
After intermission, names were pulled out of a hat. Three audience members told improv stories. One was particularly spontaneous, genuine and moving.
What’s the risk? According to Emily Hamilton Laux, a Westporter who was at last month’s event: “Telling a personal story to an audience who may be ‘judging’ you is not something often done outside of 12-step programs and group therapy.
“And listening to that story — which may have an awkward or nervous moment, or feel like it is dragging — and trying to get something from it means the audience must take the risk of actively listening, while not being quick to judge.”
Emily wished her children had joined her. “Afterwards, there was no way I could convey to them what happened in that room,” she said. “You had to be there. This is definitely multi-generational.”
(The next “Off the Wall Community Storytelling” event is set for November 17, at 7:30 p.m. Click here for ticket information.)