Following a sold-out premiere in Cortez, The Raven Narratives, a live storytelling production, is bringing storytellers to the Durango Arts Center. Raven is never scripted, which puts people in the vulnerable, malleable moment; “There’s an element of authenticity that’s thrilling, and I think there’s some kind of craving for that. It’s like the counterbalance to reality TV,” said Sarah Syverson, the show’s co-producer. These are not professional performers, but rather normal people who have a true story they wish to share with an audience. The stories can be funny, poignant, absurd, heartbreaking or all of the above – but you’ll never know exactly what to expect. People can surprise you.
The stories told at Raven Narratives have to be 8 to 10 minutes long, true and told without any notes, ranting or endorsements. They must have a beginning, middle and end. In observing the first Raven event, Syverson noticed the audience connected most with storytellers who were honest in admitting their faults and fears. “Be willing to say, ‘I was an asshole,’ or ‘I was scared shitless,’” said Syverson. “And then people will be like ‘I guess it’s OK to be an asshole sometimes.’ It happens.”
The event is jointly produced by Syverson, a writer/performer who hosts the Big Fat Farm Show on KSJD, and Tom Yoder, the Programming and Media director at KSJD Community Radio. Raven Narratives was created in the grand tradition of productions like The Moth and The Rabbit Box, other live storytelling events. The Moth is a widely successful New York City-based nonprofit group that puts on storytelling events across the country – often featuring big literary or cultural names. They also do a weekly podcast and a National Public Radio show called “The Moth Radio Hour.” Although The Moth invented the outline for these kinds of occasions, nothing similar was happening in the Four Corners – until now.
Each event also has a theme the stories must relate to; this Saturday’s theme is “Wild Places.” It will feature stories from regional residents Lindsay Dororetz, Micha Rosenoer, Paul Bohmann, Kellie Pettyjohn, Steve Underwood, Evan Meyer, Katrina Blair and Tom Gray. If you want the chance to be included, the show has something called the crackerjack box, for people who want to tell an impromptu story. You put your name in the box, and one name is pulled after intermission. Keep in mind, you’ll still have to stay on theme with your story.
The themes don’t have to be taken literally, and can be interpreted metaphorically or abstractly. If the theme is “Baggage,” for example, which is the theme for the next show in May, you needn’t tell a story about your plane luggage; it can be a story about the baggage you carry around in your life. “Oftentimes, there’s a story that jumps out at a gut level or even one that you’re scared to tell,” said Syverson. “That’s the one you want to tell.”
This Saturday, the fire chief up at Mesa Verde will tell a story about the first wolf release in Yellowstone National Park (if you’re interested in wolves, you’ll learn a lot). There are also several travel stories from people who have been in the Peace Corps, traveled to India and adventured around the Southwest.
The Raven Narratives event at the Durango Arts Center will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. They will additionally be rolling out the storytelling series as a podcast on iTunes and on the KSJD website.
By Anya Jaremko-Greenwold
DGO Staff Writer