In Southeast Alaska, the mudroom is about as important to a house as a bathroom.
It’s where mucky boots are yanked off, rain-drenched or snow-covered jackets hang to dry out and it is a glimpse of what life might be like inside. That’s the metaphor behind the upcoming series “Mudrooms.” Through storytelling, audience members can learn a little about members of the community they may not have otherwise known.
One of the organizers, Amanda Compton, took the idea from an Anchorage series, which she described as mesmerizing. In Anchorage, the event is called “Arctic Entries” and “Mudrooms” is the Southeast Alaska equivalent. The Anchorage event series was started by a couple from the East Coast emulating an event they enjoyed attending called “Stoops,” so named because it is a location where family and friends would convene and talk about the day. Compton explained how they altered the metaphor to fit their needs.
“It’s not like people are hanging out in their Arctic entries, chatting, telling stories — I mean, maybe you’ll put your skis down and ask ‘how was your ski’ but it doesn’t quite work. Nobody says, ‘Meet me in the mudroom.’”
Her mudrooms metaphor is “Just like a mudroom, you might see someone’s coats on the wall, but not if the bed’s made.”
Alida Bus is another organizer and will co-host the events with Compton and a third, Lauren Brooks. Bus and Brooks were raised in Juneau and there is a sense of commitment to learning about people in their community. While the mudrooms metaphor is telling, Bus described the event more simply.
“It’s about telling stories — real people, real stories. It’s about getting to know people from the community that you maybe don’t know. Storytelling is such a cool art of humanity — and kind of a lost art. So it’s good to have this renaissance and to bring it to Juneau in this way.”
The format of the event is fairly simple. The hosts will introduce seven people, storytellers for the night at least, who will each tell a story in seven minutes. The hosts and a musician will fill the time between stories and help the audience to make connections with the stories and the theme. If this all sounds familiar, that might be a similarity to “This American Life,” a weekly show distributed by Public Radio International, which airs on KTOO on Saturdays.
The “Mudrooms” series is intended to be a monthly event, with a different theme each month. First, it’s preparation.
“It’s maybe or maybe not connected to the time of year. We were thinking for the next (event) we would do ‘outdated’ because we’re rolling into a new year,” said Compton.
The themes provide a common thread for the storytelling, but each theme can be widely interpreted and, because the organizers hope to have a breadth of people participating, the stories should be varied.
Bus believes Juneau will embrace “Mudrooms.”
“We’re a close-knit community and I think it fits a need — we have things like Perseverance (Theatre) and the Poetry Slam, but we don’t have amateur storytelling.”
While the organizers are fairly young, in their mid 20s to early 30s, they hope to recruit volunteers from different age groups and backgrounds to reach out to different sectors of the community. Ultimately, they would like to form a “storyboard” consisting of volunteers to help find storytellers for the event; that’s how they do it in Anchorage, especially now that “Arctic Entries” is regularly filling a venue that seats 250 people.
So far, Compton and Bus have experienced an overwhelmingly positive response from people they’ve contacted. They have storytellers lined up for the event and if half the people who have said they will show up actually show up, the event should be very well attended, said Compton. She hinted people might want to show up early to get a seat and a cup of coffee.
The series itself is worthy of the effort the organizers have put into it, but they have further hopes that the event will bridge gaps and make people more aware of other people.
“We’re all human, I guess, I want that basic concept to be awakened and recognized more than it is,” suggested Compton, “I think it can only make us closer. Some people are afraid of that, but I think it can only be a good thing.
The “Mudrooms” premiere will be at 7 p.m., Nov. 30 at the Rookery Café on South Franklin Street. The event will cost $7 and proceeds will benefit The Glory Hole.
For more information on “Mudrooms” or to volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org.