The holidays are a festive time to visit friends and family whom we don’t regularly see the rest of the year. Sometimes, though, that can be a recipe for disaster.
A group of writers and storytellers last week gathered at the hipster hot spot Gramps in Wynwood to tell an audience of equally mortified Miamians about their “crappy Christmas tales.”
Stories ranged from South Beach dreams gone wrong, to a horrible raccoon vs. turkey dinner, and an emergency roadside kit for a car-less teen. The central theme: Love for family, no matter how crazy the holidays may get.
Attendee Gretel Rogers of Miami Beach said she loves how brave people are to tell their stories and liked how personal people were in a room full of strangers.
“I got to hear people’s life stories, and it was moving to hear them speak from their heart,” she said.
“Storypalooza” is a subsidiary of the Miami Book Fair and sister program of the popular “Lip Service: True Stories Told Out Loud,” a standup event which encourages anyone to write a 500-word story and share it. The Dec. 15 program was the fourth in a series, in which each time the theme changes.
Host and producer Nick Garnett offered trivia breaks between readings. Lip Service founder/producer Esther Martinez and local writer and editor M.J. Fievre gave advice on how to enhance the storytelling process.
Garnett said the idea was to create a more informal event where people could talk about their “sucky” holidays. He says the best part is not knowing what to expect when someone steps up to the microphone.
“We’ve gotten lucky because usually, the people are really good,” Garnett said. “At one of our past events, a Middle Eastern man talked about how being hairy his whole life had been a thing he had been ashamed of, tried to hide by waxing and how it affected his relationships with women. He finally meets a girl who not only doesn’t mind it but actually finds it sexy. The story was called “Sexy Coconuts,” and the coconuts were referring to … well, I think you can figure it out. The story was funny because he was so honest.”
Most people feel liberated after they share, Garnett said.
It’s life changing or like going to a revival meeting, he said, because the audience is supportive. Some storytellers have psychological breakthroughs, others break down crying, and some experience an adrenaline rush.
Garnett said what stands out most at these events is how much people have in common, despite the different paths they take. Despite different religions and cultures, we’ve all shared similar sentiments in life, he said.
“There’s nothing that unifies people more than hearing people’s stories,” he said. “It doesn’t mean the stories are similar or about the same thing but over the course of our lives we have all felt lonely, or disconnected or turned on or embarrassed or humiliated, and the more honest people are the more universal the story is because we’ve all been there. It’s not easy to stand up in front of a crowd and reveal something about yourself you’d be ashamed of, but that’s when these shows really work the best.”