Thursday, January 26, 2012

Storylab Chicago: Keeping Us Human through Storytelling


Last week at the prompting of a performer-of-many-trades friend, I had the delight of attending Storylab Chicago. The Black Rock Pub & Kitchen hosted the event and apparently welcomes Storylab every third Wednesday of the month.

Six storytellers provided fuel for laughs, reflections to ponder and even some sighs of sadness. The night provided a great opportunity for them to get up in front of the crowd to either have fun performing or challenging themselves with something new. At least one of the story tellers got up there because she challenged herself to do something new everyday in the year before her thirtieth birthday. Another story teller got up there as yet another avenue for creative expression.

I have the feeling my friend did it for a variety of reasons. She wanted to challenge herself. She wanted to share in the experience after spending time in the audience. She wanted to share with friends and strangers. She wanted to practice what she had learned in a class.

They have an egalitarian and populist method to get people signed up for performance at future Storylab events. I would have thought someone would have to take the Storylab Chicago's Storytelling for Everyone class, know someone who organizes Storylab or have some kind of reputation as a storyteller to get up there. After all, the place was packed and there is only so much time.

Anyone can get up there and tell their story. Well, there is a process to get up there, but essentially anyone can. You just sign up for the mailing list and put a star by your name. They probably won't let you get up there right away or at the next storytelling event. As I said, the place was packed and there's only so much time. Indicate you want to get up there and tell a story, though, and the organizers will get you scheduled to get up there at one of the future events. Bunch of people I was with wanted to try reserving a night just for their stories.

I like seeing the organizers of Storylab keeping up an oral tradition that we could see fall by the wayside otherwise. We all spend a lot of time on the Internet, doing the whole social networking thing. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Four Square, name your poison. We can easily spend hour on top of hours on these social network sites, sharing our stories, quips and opinions. A lot of our storytelling has transferred onto the Internet.

Suffice to say, Social Networking and the Internet provides an opportunity for people who don't have access to other people. It even provides an avenue of expression for people who may not care for verbal communication. We have seen great advances in society, science, the arts and a number of things because of the Internet and Social Networking. It has helped the human race evolve faster and more robustly than before. A lot of good has come out of the Internet and Social Networking.

But we can become dependent on these tools and maybe even addicted to them. Just look at people who REALLY get into World of Warcraft and other MMORPGs. Others love to spend tons of time on Facebook and other social networking sites. I can easily spend my time doing research, reading the news, following the stock market.

Heck, I'll admit it, I'd rather communicate through e-mail or chat than talk on the phone. I have no idea why other than I spend too much time on the phone at work already. For many of us, we find a lot of enjoyment while using the Internet and sometimes just plain prefer it over the material world.

I have no grand argument as to why keeping up this kind of oral tradition strikes me as so important. Maybe I will one day. I just think keeping up this type of tradition, even if it has to be done intentionally rather than organically, helps us to hold onto an aspect of what makes us human on a live basis. We share in real time, sometimes without as much of a conscious thought, we're present and we come closer to feeling like there's some sense in the world, even if just for a few hours or even a couple minutes. It's an important feeling and activity.

It's something that makes us, I believe, more human.

QUOTES OF NOTE: Storylab Chicago, The Black Rock Pub & Kitchen, Storytelling for Everyone, storytelling, oral tradition, World of Warcraft

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