On Thursday, June 20, 2019, the Columbia Festival of the Arts presented another edition of the locally based distinctive performing arts group, Stoop Storytelling Series at the Smith Theatre at the Horowitz Center at Howard Community College.
The Stoop Storytelling Series has been a popular event in Baltimore since its inception in 2006. Six or seven people from all walks of life get to tell a personal tale on a given topic. Each person gets about seven minutes. After intermission, a few members of the audience are chosen to tell their own three-minute story. Thursday night’s topic was “On Purpose: Stories about Living in Line with Your Unique Values.” Leading the performers tonight were Jessica Henkin and her husband Aaron. Jessica and Laura Wexler of the founders of the group.
Tonight’s fare was in a more serious tone than previous ones. Perhaps, that was because it was sponsored by Speak (easy) Howard on a grant from the Horizon Foundation. This deals with making a decision that affects the quality of life. There were, however, some lighter moments.
Danton, probably the youngest of the group, told a story about a road trip he made while in high school that almost ended in disaster. He included some laughable moments. Danton explained that it made him even more daring as an adult.
Jabari retold the story of the first time he shows his inner self. By learning self-acceptance, he has gone on to become an important member of the LGBTQ community, helping others to gain acceptance and rights in Baltimore.
Brian, a pediatrician, talked about his work and friendships on a Navaho reservation. He spoke about how it changed his whole outlook on life.
The stories were enlightening, and the honesty and frankness of the storytellers were roundly appreciated.
On a more somber note, Farida told us about her arranged marriage in India to a man she did not really know. He wanted a wife to join him here in America, but even after children, she needed her own life and created one on her own. It was only after her own independence that she could have a real relationship with her husband, and it was only after his death that she realized that she really did love him.
John talked frankly about his alcoholism which leads to cirrhosis of the liver. He has had some near-death experiences, but he has been sober for over ten years. He also now has a wonderful relationship with the love of his life. John told us he felt that the disease may have been a blessing in disguise as it led him to this love.
On a similar note, Betsy talked about her husband’s Alzheimer’s. She felt that nurturing him through the disease not only brought them closer together but helped her husband finally accept his mother who had abused him as a child.
Peter told us about his perfect marriage that was greatly altered by the death of his daughter from a drug overdose. He spoke frankly about how he dealt with this great loss.
Some of the sunnier moments of the night were provided by the audience. Alex had a whimsical tale about getting her daughter to Rome. Zory told us about the interesting folks that he has contacted on his ham radio. Amy had a comical cautionary tale about snorkeling.
This may not have been the program to which Stoop Storytelling Series’ audiences have become accustomed. The stories were enlightening, and the honesty and frankness of the storytellers were roundly appreciated.
Running Time: Two hours with an intermission.
If you missed “Stoop Storytelling Series” in Columbia, they will be performing again on Thursday, July 25, 2019, presenting “Truth and Lies: An Evening of Stories and Magic” at Creative Alliance. Tickets are available online.
You can catch podcasts of their live shows online.
Don’t forget to check out Columbia Festival of the Arts website for information and tickets for other performances.
Catch our interview with Jessica Henkin.