We’ve all told tales: around camp fires, at family reunions, even whispered between cubicles at work. Last night, 2nd Story, courtesy of Portland’s Wordstock festival, made storytelling an almost textual experience, mingling food, interpretive jazz and five great tales about love lost, love-never-had, reconnection and redemption. It was a low-key and comforting performance. Sort of like a big, heaping bowl of mac-n-cheese for the literary set.

Performer Sara Karastas told us a tale about her one-time gig as a telephone operator for the hearing and visually impaired and the phone calls she moderated between two long-distance lovers. I thought Karastas was going to start working blue, the story got so steamy, but it turned corners unexpectedly and dissolved into a sweet reflection on unlikely human connection. Really well done.

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Another notable storyteller, Megan Stielstra, had us laughing with her uncanny imitation of a Grey’s Anatomy episode. She got the biggest laughs and most tears of the night for her heart-tugging story about teaching (and failing to teach) at-risk kids. I talked with Stielstra after her performance, and she admitted that all she ever needed to know about good storytelling she learned from tending bar, a job she held while working her way through grad school. "All those people telling you their problems and stories, night after night. You just learn to listen for the rhythms," she said.

If you missed 2nd Story last night, never fear. You can listen to their free podcasts anytime.