Speak Up: A recap of our first show

Our inaugural Speak Up storytelling event took place at Real Art Ways in Hartford, CT on Saturday night, and Elysha and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results. Thoughts from the evening include:

1. One of our greatest fears was that there simply wouldn’t be enough people interested in storytelling to fill the space and provide our storytellers with an audience. Thankfully, we couldn’t have been more mistaken. We had seating for 80 guests and ended up with a standing-room-only audience of close to 150 people, many of whom Elysha and I did not know. It turns out that there is an appetite for storytelling in Hartford after all. We couldn’t be more thrilled. The audience was exceptionally supportive of our emcee and storytellers and couldn’t have been more enthusiastic. I have told many stories for The Moth and other storytelling organizations in the past two years, and Saturday night’s audience rivaled them all in terms of sheer energy.

2. While admittedly biased, I must say that our storytellers were incredible last night. Several people who are familiar with The Moth through their weekly podcast, radio show and live events told us that last night’s show was “Moth-like quality.” As an unabashed fanboy of The Moth and a frequent Moth storyteller, I could not imagine a better compliment. Elysha and I went to bed talking about how difficult it was to choose a favorite story from the show because the performances were all so remarkable.

3. One of the most frustrating aspects of producing an event like this is the inability to speak to everyone in attendance. If you were at the Saturday night show and Elysha and I did not have a chance to chat with you, our deepest apologies. We were busier than we thought we would be. We wish we could’ve spent time with one and all.

4. Launching this endeavor and producing last night’s show with my wife reminded me of how fortunate I am to have a person like Elysha as my wife. She is creative, encouraging, inspiring and brave. Saturday night’s show was one I will never forget, but it wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying had Elysha not been my partner in this new venture.

5. One of the aspects of the show that people seemed to enjoy the most was the variety of stories that were told. They ranged from humorous to heartfelt, thrilling to heart-wrenching. Yet oddly enough, there was also a connective tissue between many of the stories that was both unexpected and fascinating. At least three storytellers told stories in which their names played a key role (including my own). Unbeknownst to us, two storytellers told stories about traveling to Greece when they were young (one changed her story less than 24 hours before show time). Three storytellers told stories about a school-based competition. Yet every story stood alone in terms of its content, message and impact on the audience. They were all unique, compelling and completely entertaining.   

6. After the show, Elysha and I went to The Corner Pug for dinner and ran into four people who had been at the show. They raved about the storytellers and Elysha’s performance as emcee. It was the perfect way to end the evening.

7. A former elementary school classmate, Kevin, and his friend and podcast co-host, Cornflake, made the trip from central Massachusetts to attend the show. Kevin is the same classmate who attended a January performance of The Clowns, the rock opera that I co-wrote with Andy Mayo that we produced at the Playhouse on Park in West Hartford, Connecticut. More on Kevin and Cornflake in a subsequent post, but needless to say, they were awarded the prize for the greatest distance traveled to attend the show. 

8. We are grateful to so many people who played a role in last night’s success. Some of these people include:

Rob Hugh, who helped make the recording possible. We recorded all the stories from Saturday night and will make the recordings available via a podcast that Elysha and I will be launching soon.

Vanessa Del a Torre from the Hartford Courant, who was kind enough to write a story about our event. Many people informed me that they had heard about Speak Up through the Courant and were in attendance because of the story that she wrote.

LB Munoz, Will Wilkins and the rest of the staff at Real Art Ways who provided us with the perfect venue to launch this endeavor. They were generous, knowledgeable, patient and bend-over-back helpful in making this happen. We look forward to working with them long into the future.

Our storytellers, without whom there would be no show:

Game show host extraordinaire, James Bengiovanni

A woman who truly knows how to celebrate Mother’s Day, Ellen Painter Dollar

Spelling bee champion, Rachel Leventhal-Weiner

The man who rode a crocodile from Africa to America, Okey Ndibe

The grandson of the Queen of the Goats, Plato Karafelis

Summer Lovers/Peter Gallagher devotee Kim Damokosh

We thank you all for your expertise and exceptionalism. We were honored to have you launch this endeavor with us. 

9. We are already planning our next Speak Up event, which will likely take place in September. When we have more details, we will be sure to provide them.

speak up