Is there any art form more Paleolithic than storytelling? How else to unwind from a successful day stoning a bison in a pit trap than to recount the adventure to folks back in the cave?
Storytelling is basic. Get in front of a few folks and unwind a yarn. Due to life, laundry, and poorly made clothing, we’ve all collected some yarn.
You have a story to tell. If you think your story is only interesting to you, don’t worry. If anything, the more exacting a story is to the storyteller, the more universal it is to the rest of us.
There is a one-to-many intersection of teller to listener. As soon as you release your story into the ether, all those ears funnel it through a filter of personal experience. The story heard is personal to the listener. One story may be told, but as many stories are heard as there are people in the audience.
It is liberating. You don’t have worry about being a “crowd pleaser.”
If it sounds like I’m recruiting, I am. I am a new Mudrooms board member. This year’s board also includes the two women who founded the organization: Amanda Compton and Alida Bus. The rest are Tom Cosgrove, Rich Moniak, Marc Wheeler, Katie Spielberger, Pat Roach and Quinn White. Some board members are a wellspring of competence and organize the speakers. Some are the technicians that make sure the loudspeakers work and the stories are recorded for posterity. Some have the winning personality needed to advertise and recruit. Others just write self-serving articles for the Empire about how Mudrooms is so cool and awesome.
And if previous years are any indication, you will not believe how cool and awesome this season of Mudrooms will be. The response to the previous two seasons has been so good that the event has moved to a larger venue, Cosgrove said.
“I think people are enjoying seeing their friends and neighbors tell stories, many of which have never been shared before,” he said.
This season’s line-up of themes is gravid, laden, PREGNANT with potential awesomeness. All shows this year but one will be held at the Northern Light United Church on 400 West 11th Street. The first show is Wednesday, Oct. 9, 7 p.m. The theme of the first event is “Coming Home.” This is the only show of the year booked up with speakers.
If you’ve ever thought about telling your story to a crowd, there is space in the rest of the year’s shows. The theme for Tuesday, Nov. 12 is “Scars.” and the rest of the season looks like this:
Wednesday, Dec. 11 - Theme: Awkward
Tuesday, Jan. 14 - Theme: Grace
Wednesday, Feb. 12 (Mendenhall Valley venue) - Theme: On the Road
Tuesday, March 11 - Theme: Wild Life
Wednesday, April 2 - Theme: Deception
Tuesday, May 13 - Theme: Close Calls
Mudrooms also makes money. Mudrooms profits go to a local organization. The first two seasons raised $8,500 — most of it last year when Mudrooms raised $6,000 for the Imagination Library. In the first half of this season, Mudrooms profits will go to Discovery Southeast. Second half funds will go to Big Brother Big Sisters of Juneau. Not only is storytelling entertaining and enlightening, it’s kind of lucrative! (At least by nonprofit standards).
I asked some of the board members what draws them to storytelling. For Compton, it’s about what we learn from each other.
“(T)he fire and the food and the shelter and the air -- the essentials, the tool kit for living humanely. Tell us about war, addiction or abuse, about sexuality, beauty, intrigue or an old cassette collection. We learn by watching and listening, but someone’s gotta speak up,” she said.
Essayist Moniak shares similar hopes for Mudrooms.
“Personal stories that reveal something about who the storyteller is rather than how they want people in the community to see them,” he said. “In other words, genuine people rather than stage hounds.”
On a larger scale, Moniak feels “we as a culture have lost our sense of telling true everyday stories unless they’re really funny or sensational. The common theme in all our lives is the stories we live. The ones we remember best are those that have some kind of deeper meaning that keeps coming back with new questions or insights which form threads with newer experiences.”
(So maybe it wasn’t a bison, but a ‘possum. Still, it’s a worthy tale.)
Cosgrove keeps it short.
“Storytelling is a part of who we are as a species,” he said. “We all have stories. And we need to share them. Mudrooms is a place to do that. Real people sharing real stories.”
If you want to do this, if you have something to say (and who doesn’t), take a look at the themes and shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You don’t have to be an actor, or a “performer,” just be your Juneau self and be part of an ancient tradition.
• Clint J. Farr can be reached at email@example.com.
KNOW AND GO
What: Mudrooms season premiere, with a theme of Coming Home
When: Wednesday, Oct. 9 at 7 p.m.
Where: Northern Light United Church, 400 West 11th Street
Details: The speakers are Ryan Conarro, Rich Forst, Jim Hale, Michele Bonet Hale, Laura Haywood, Michael Kohan and Jerry Smetzer. $7 cash at the door. For more, visit mudrooms.org.