Theatre of Western Springs to stream performers telling true personal events in ‘Story Slam’

If you have sat in your driveway listening to the end of a “Moth” story on your vehicle’s radio, you will love the “TWS Story Slam,” promises the Theatre of Western Springs. TWS will present two separate online programs of five stories each.

Ten storytellers, all from TWS, tell true, personal stories that changed their lives in some big or small way, a news release stated.

The first program of five stories is titled “Facing Your Fears.” It will be released Friday, March 19. The second program, “Making the Difficult Decision,” will be released Friday, March 26.

“This is something brand new to TWS,” said Ashley Kennedy, originator of the “Story Slam” idea and a TWS board member. “And it’s been a very successful inaugural project.”

The stories and storytellers are:

• “1%” by Linda Cunningham of La Grange

• “Going to Solstice” by Gonzo Schexnayder of Brookfield

• “An Uncommon Sibling” by Danny Parrott of Arlington Heights

• “Famous Book Friends” by Julie Tomek Campo of Darien

• “Montana” by Patricia Huth of La Grange Park

• “Now What” by Thom Serafin of Chicago

• “Saying Goodbye” by Janet Venzon of Downers Grove

• “Scarred” by Haruka Hitchcock of Hometown

• “The Revelation” by Jack Calvert of Western Springs

• “Tribute to Maya” by Kat Creedon of Brookfield

“This is a new experience for almost everyone involved,” said Greg Kolack, guide for the “Story Slam” and TWS artist-in-residence. “The stories are told, not read. I think when people see this, they are really going to be entertained and moved by it.”

The stories are interesting, thought-provoking, raw and exciting, the release stated. The storytellers tackle a variety of subjects such as love, adventure, adoption, divorce, death, the priesthood, exploration, loss and violence.

For the storytellers, much of the process was educational, consisting of a month of writing workshops that were overseen by experienced writing coaches.

“The stories evolved beautifully during the process of reworking and rewriting,” said Edward Pinkowski, the project’s writing guide and chair of the TWS Playwrights Workshop. “I initiated discussions on craft and, along with writing coach Carolyn Thomas-Davidoff, focused on elements to make each story stronger.”

The second month of work focused on telling the stories with guidance from Kolack. Both the writing and storytelling workshops took place using Zoom.

“The respectful, supportive, and nurturing environment in each group is why these stories are so compelling and why this was such a great success,” Pinkowski said. “Storytelling promotes empathy or understanding between people, and that certainly was accomplished here.”

The final stories were filmed using professional cameras in a multicamera setup with lighting, sound and staging. There was a complementary soundscape of music and sound effects to round out the aural experience. Editing was accomplished by an experienced video producer.

“Ashley Kennedy came to me with this idea a year and a half prior to the pandemic,” said Eddie Sugarman, TWS executive artistic director. “It sounded terrifically exciting, but we couldn’t quite see how it fit into our programming at that time. Then, of course, the world changed. The idea of intimate, powerful stories pulling you through your screen suddenly seemed like a slam dunk.”

Tickets are pay-what-you-can, with $10 per viewer recommended. One ticket covers both shows. The shows will be streamed on Vimeo, so an Internet connection is all that is required.

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