January 29, 2010

2nd Story comes down to First Floor Theater for night of storytelling

Everybody’s got a story to tell. That’s the idea behind 2nd Story, a hybrid experience of theater and socializing that will be performed this Friday by storytellers from the Serendipity Theater Collective at the First Floor Theater. “We’ve chosen stories that we think speak to a college-age audience, and that deal with issues experienced at a University,” said Amanda Delheimer (A.B. ’99, A.M. ’99), the artistic director for the show who will also host and direct Friday’s performance. “We’re bringing in four storytellers, and a couple of our all-time favorite stories...all of our stories are real, written, and performed by the tellers themselves.”

A typical 2nd Story performance is not like that of your average play. “We’re based in a mix of traditions—the theatrical tradition, the literary tradition, the jazz tradition,” Delheimer said. A night with 2nd Story is more like a cross between a performance and a cocktail party with a group of friends. Rather than relaxing in the dark anonymity of their seats, the audience mingles over food and wine, chatting and noshing casually until the lights dim. As the room darkens, a spotlight falls on a storyteller, who then shares their tale. After the lights come up, the party continues. “Everything we do is for the audience—in every story we program, we look for that moment of universality that anyone can connect with, whether they’ve had the same experience or not,” said Megan Stielstra, a lecturer in Creative Writing and 2nd Story’s Literary Director.

The emphasis on real rather than fictional stories is another way that 2nd Story sets itself apart from traditional theater. “It’s an interesting collaborative process between a whole bunch of professional actors and a bunch of professional writers, and we’re trying to let the two crafts feed into each other both with the final product and the process,” Stielstra said. “We do a lot of drafting and re-writing through the rehearsal process, so the director has more flexibility in terms of the words on the page than they would with a script, but also must balance their thoughts and opinions of what the story could or should be with those of the writer/performer,” Delheimer added. “I think it’s a particularly exciting form to be involved with as a director.

Though 2nd Story usually performs monthly at Webster’s Wine Bar and Red Kiva Lounge in Chicago, they also travel for guest performances like this one, which Stielstra describes as “a bit of a homecoming.” Friday’s performance will also feature sound design by Mikhail Fiksel (A.B. ’01), and Sara Kerastas, Bobby Biedrzycki, Khanisha Foster, and Matt Miller will be sharing their stories.

With its unique blend of storytelling, wine, and music, 2nd Story’s philosophy extends beyond the stage, and promises to entertain and enlighten with its spin on the age-old tradition of telling tales. The takeaway message, says Stielstra, is that “stories matter—YOUR stories matter. Your voice, your experience, your point of view.”