Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner: Stranger Stories hosts hosting storytellers this month

In an age dominated by Twitter and Instagram, personal stories seem to be getting shortened and digitized. But not everywhere — here in RI, live storytelling is alive and well.

Stranger Stories is a live event showcasing true-to-life narrative from local writers and storytellers of all types and experiences. Organized by local writers (and Motif contributors) Fallon Masterson and Judee Burr, the series has put on shows every other month since May 2018.

“We know that there’s such an interest in storytelling,” says Masterson. “People are interested in cheering the voices of people who are telling their true narratives.” Burr agrees: “Telling your own story is something that a lot of people want to do and want to build confidence in doing… The material is our lives, and learning how to tell and write it in a compelling way is an exciting thing.”

The organization is partially funded by a grant from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, which helps keep admission free and allows a small stipend for readers. Each event features a series of readings around a theme — for this November, the theme is “Hosting.” Past themes have included “Dinnertime” and “Made It.”

Though the stories range from playful to serious, Masterson says not to expect a quiet event. “Our audience is so engaged,” she says. “It’s not like a silent, reverent reading. There tends to be a lot of humor in the stories, so there’s a lot of laughter.”

The audience participates in the storytelling, too. Attendees are invited to write anonymous stories on small slips of paper and deposit them in a jar. Later, Masterson and Burr invite audience members up to pull stories from the jar and read them aloud.

Burr and Masterson both report that the response to storytelling has been surprising and humbling. “Anyone out there who’s thinking, ‘Wow, this is a story that’s important to me and has meaning to me’ should take a shot at writing it down and think about sharing it with more people,” says Burr. “We’ve seen how powerful that is when those stories get out.”

The next Stranger Stories takes place Thu, Nov 21, 6 – 8pm at WaterFire Arts Center, PVD. The theme is “Hosting.”

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