GTPulse: Here:Say Storytelling Connects People And Stories For Seventh Season

We are all storytellers by nature. When that Subaru Forester pulled in front of you while you were doing a comfortable 65 down U.S. 31 forcing you to brake, you might have mentioned it later on the phone to your mother. Or maybe you told her about 7-Eleven not having onions for your weekly hot dog. These stories aren’t remarkable but they’re stories, nonetheless. Karen Stein has created a community platform for people to tell their stories and I promise… they’re much more interesting than a 7-Eleven hot dog.

Karen is the founder and creative director of Here:Say Storytelling. The show is going into its seventh season.

“We go October to May, is our season. It’s so hard to compete with anything in the summer, even just to ask people to be a little quiet in the bar in July is … a cute request,” Karen said with a laugh.

 The show gives anyone an opportunity to tell their story in front of an audience. Each show has a theme and storytellers are expected to tell a story that is connected to the nights theme. The season seven opening show’s theme is Point:Counterpoint and will feature two storytellers recounting the same story from their own perspectives. Karen picks themes based on ideas and experiences she has had. 

“Each show is it’s own little beast. For the first couple seasons I put myself in every show to make sure I had a complete lineup so I based my themes on what do I have a story about, just to make sure I could participate. But, really the themes are meant to be interpretive.”

Photo courtesy of Alan Newton Photography

A story Karen has told at the Here:Say shows it’s from a life-changing experience she’s had.

“I got stuck in the Chicago blue line tunnel for two and a half hours, me and all these rush hour commuters. Claustrophobia has always been a trigger for me and it was an interesting challenge I was engaging in.”

The experience made her reexamine her life and inspired her to change it. She moved in with her brother who was living in Mexico at the time. After eight months of staying with him she came to stay with her mother and her mother’s husband in Grawn Michigan.

“I was just passing through, I didn’t plan to stay. The brutal winter turned to summer and I said ‘this place is magical.’ I’ve been here for almost 10 years.”

While she had been living in Chicago she had gone to other storytelling shows and was actively seeking out a storytelling show when she moved to Traverse City, but couldn’t find one.

“I couldn’t find anything. I just started mentioning it to people I knew here and I kept asking people in the community, really trying to get someone else to start a show and then one day I just thought, why don’t I do it myself?”

The early shows were put on at the Inside Out Gallery in Traverse City.

“We had 10 performers. There were more storytellers than audience members, you know, but the audience members who were there really liked it and told people about it and they brought people to the next show, and it just grew from there.” 

General manager of Workshop Brewing Andrew Lutes had attended a Here:Say show at the gallery, so when the gallery closed he offered for Workshop Brewing to be the new venue for the storytelling shows and they have been there ever since.

Storytellers have to pitch their story ideas to Karen if they would like to participate in a show, and Karen rarely says no unless a story is unrelated to the theme of the particular show. Oftentimes instead of saying no, she helps potential storytellers hone their story.

“All new performers to the stage have to go through a workshop with me.”

Photo courtesy of Alan Newton Photography

Karen has had the pleasure and privilege to both tell stories and listen to them. A memorable story for her is one from last December, where a woman told a story about working for meditation guru to The Beatles, Maharishi in the 80s.

“Maharishi had a lot of books on meditation. Nancy Reagan was first lady and she was in town, this was somewhere in Iowa, on her Just Say No campaign. Maharishi instructed Sue Ann to take a meditation book to Nancy and she ended up in Nancy Reagan’s motorcade. She got her the book.”

The stories are one half of Here:Say. The audience is the other half, and one of Karen’s favorite parts about the storytelling events.

“The people who come to these shows, they care very deeply. That’s why they’re here. Audience members will line up to talk to a storyteller after a show and that’s my favorite part.”

There’s a palpable energy at Here:Say shows that is all it’s own and has to be experienced to be understood. Whether you want to hear something or say something put Here:Say on your calendar and experience the human experience.


Categories: GTPulse