The “Stoop Storytelling Series” is a Baltimore-based live show and podcast that features “ordinary” people sharing the extraordinary, true tales of their lives. If you have never seen one of their performances, you will find yourself drawn into the tales related by chosen, but every-day, men and women. If you have your own interesting story, you can put your name into a “hat” and if it is drawn. Then, you too can go on stage and tell your interesting anecdote. There is plenty of humor and some pathos. The mission of The Stoop is to build community through the sharing of personal stories, and you will agree after the show that they meet their goal
Since its founding in 2006, The Stoop has featured the tales of more than 2,500 people onstage — including notable citizens such as Congressman Elijah Cummings, “Wire” creator David Simon, activist DeRay Mckesson, and Senator Barbara Mikulski. Laura Wexler and Jessica Henkin are the Founders, Producers and Hosts of “Stoop Story Telling.” Stoop stories are not memorized, performed, or read. They’re shared. Stoop shows are intimate and surprising, wonderful and weird, hilarious and heartbreaking.
There are three ways to listen to The Stoop:
- Check out The Stoop Podcast, which captures the spirit of the live shows with weekly episodes featuring stories and narration from hosts Laura Wexler and Jessica Henkin.
- Listen to past Live Shows dating back to 2006.
- Use our handy search box to scan our archives by show, storyteller, keyword, or venue.
In addition to its mainstage shows at The Senator Theatre, The Stoop presents Special Events, Workshops, and Second Stoop open mic evenings.
Jessica Henkin works for Baltimore City Public School’s Office of Early Learning Program. She’s passionate about her family, autism education, Baltimore City, keeping her house clean, finding most things funny—and, of course, storytelling. See her onstage with the Baltimore Improv Group.
I had the chance to interview Jessica Henkin in anticipation of Stoop Storytelling’s performance of the Columbia Festival of the Arts.
- Why did you and Laura decide to form this unique performance venue?
We started The Stoop in 2006 because we wanted to create an event that would build community through the sharing of personal stories. The Columbia Festival of the Arts asked us to join their line-up in 2014, so this is our 5th year taking part in this great festival! We’re excited to put on a fun and thoughtful show for a great audience, which the festival always promises to have. We normally have a mainstage season at The Senator Theater in Baltimore, so this is a nice change of pace.
- Did you have formal theatrical experience before forming the group?
Not really! But The Stoop isn’t actually theater so it’s OK. Laura is a writer, producer, and filmmaker. I have performed improv comedy since 2000, first with the Upright Citizen’s Brigade theater in New York and then with the Baltimore Improv Group since 2006. We both have an intuitive sense for stories that we’ve honed over the past 13 years, coaching nearly 2,000 “ordinary people” to share stories at The Stoop.
- How do you decide who will perform?
Our motto is “Everyone has a story. What’s yours?” so our mission is to open The Stoop stage to as many different people as possible. We announce our themes in advance of the shows and many people submit stories through our website. Sometimes we recruit people specifically. In either case, we talk to people and work to create the most diverse line-up of stories and storytellers for each show.
- Do you or Laura ever take part in the storytelling?
We consider ourselves midwives to other people’s stories so we generally refrain from telling tales ourselves. Sometimes we do if it’s a Second Stoop — an open mic storytelling night — and people are being a little shy. I have many stories about going to Catholic school! Laura has shared stories about her teenaged jobs and also the time I volunteered her to house a stranger in her home!
- Can you relate a couple of stories that either made you laugh or cry or both?
Most of our stories do both, honestly. It’s really hard to pick a favorite but one that stands out is Maria Falzone, who shared a story at a show we did at The Soundry in Columbia last fall about her battle with pancreatic cancer. It was funny and sad and inspiring. That show was sponsored by Speakeasy Howard, as this one is, and we hope to have similarly powerful tales. You can listen to Stoop stories each week on The Stoop Storytelling Series podcast, which you can download on iTunes or Spotify. Check it out!
Note: “Stoop Storytelling Series” will be appearing as part of the Columbia Festival of the Arts with their production “On Purpose: Stories About Living in Line with Your Unique Values” on Thursday, June 20, 2019 at 7:00 PM at The Smith Theatre at the Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center at Howard Community College in Columbia, MD. Tickets are available online.