Thanks to the popularity of radio shows like This American Life, memoirists like David Sedaris, and events like the Moth, storytelling events are booming, particularly in our town of book lovers and tall-tale pioneers. Almost every week of the month offers at least one opportunity to watch friends and strangers get on stage and share their innermost secrets, often related to a topic or theme (sex, embarrasing childhood diaries, sex, religion, sex).
There are events for every story taste and type: comedic, serious, rehearsed, off the cuff, angsty, R-rated. Some offer veteran yarn-spinners; others are open to anyone. The list below attempts to help you find the stories you most want to hear—or a stage you might want to jump on yourself. We'll try to update this post monthly, so check back regularly.
Most sane people leave their middle and high school diaries in a box in the attic (if they don't burn them in despair). Other less sane people get on stage and read them, verbatim. No surprise, Mortified (a local offshoot of a national franchise) offers some of the most embarassing and squeamish stories in town, but the flip side is that the audience seems united in that embarrassment, because we can all identify with writing (or at least thinking) about how much we wanted to lose our virginity, how it felt like our life was over when so-and-so broke up with us after six days, or any number of now trivial-seeming angst.
Urban Tellers provides a platform for performers who've gone through Portland Story Theater's Art of Personal Narrative workshops to find and hone their story. The results are highly personal and authentic narratives, often going for impact and craft over humor, making UT one of the more serious events in town.
Storytellers: Grads of the 8-session Portland Story Theater workshops or occasional invited tellers
Audience vibe: Connected and supportive. Many audience members are regulars.
Sell out potential: High
Frequency: Monthly. Portland Story Theater also produces other special events (Valentine's, Solo Series, etc) that we will add during the appropriate months.
Next show: The 10th anniversary season will kick off on Sept 13 at 8 pm with Lawrence Howard (creator of the Shackleton's Antarctic Nightmare) Lynne Duddy (founder of Portland Story Theater), Eric Stern (Vagabond Opera), Penny Walter (Pupperteer Impresario), Leigh Hancock (award-winning writer), and Kriya Kaping (Raconteur) at Urban Tellers new home, Alberta Abbey. Tickets $15–20
Back Fence: Reel Stories
The newest in Back Fence's smorgasbord invites filmmakers to use footage—clips, outtakes, behind-the-scenes footage—to build their narratives.
Storyteller Bios: Documentary and feature film writers and directors
Audience vibe: Prepared for greatness
Sell out potential: High
Next show: Part of the second Portland Film Festival, the second installment of Reel Stories takes place August 28 and will include James Westby (Rid of Me, The Auteur), Beth Harrison (The Winding Stream), October Moore (Portlandia, Grimm, City Baby), TG Firestone (HBO/Vice Documentary Series, Portlandia), and Casey Parks (Diary of a Misfit, a work in progress). Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd. Tickets $15
Portland Storyteller's Guild
This group consists of a close circle of storytellers who venture into that seemingly forbidden storytelling land: fiction. Each performance is a smattering of both true and fictionalized stories, whether completely made up or true events told through a creative lens, with a focus on the love of simply well told stories.
Storyteller Bios: Performers are selected from the previous year’s Storython performances in September and October.
Audience vibe: Literary
Sell out potential: Low
Frequency: Every second Friday
Next shows: Aug 21, 7:30. Sacred Storytelling Series: Water, Floods and the Sacred Wound with Mythteller Brian Rohr. Awakenings, 1016 SE 12th Ave. $15
Sep 13, 7:30 pm. Storython. This is Portland Storyteller's Guild version of auditions. 15 storytellers, 5 minutes each. The best of the best will be invited to be part of PSG's upcoming season's lineup. Hipbone, 1847 E Burnside. Tickets $10
Testify: A Musical Storytelling Revival
In the style of a holy-roller-church-revival-tent meeting, these mostly queer tellers add some glitz and glamour, musical performance, and comedy to their all-too-true experiences with religion, often entangled with their experiences of coming out. Floyd’s Coffee provides an intimate space for this rollicking ride of intense velocity, venerability, and vulnerability.
Storyteller Bios: Individuals invited by the show founder
Audience vibe: Interactive and accepting
Sell out potential: Low, however Floyd’s gets mighty packed.
Next show: New show TBA. Floyd’s Coffee, 118 NW Couch. $5
Curious Comedy Theatre offers one of the most affordable and comfortable (i.e. no elbowing a stranger in the gut for seats) nights in town. Storytellers are selected through a pitch process.
Storyteller Bios: Mix of solicited and unsolicited folks, veteran and newcomers, with a leaning towards comics and actors—it is a comedy club after all
Audience vibe: Relaxed and attentive
Coached: Less experienced performers receive coaching as needed.
Sell out potential: No
Frequency: Fourth Thursday
Next show: July 24, 8 pm. Curious Comedy Theater, 5225 NE MLK Blvd. $5
This monthly storytelling event takes over Eugenio's, turning it into a makeshift stage with extra chairs toward the front. The storytellers are comedians, who often take this opportunity to tell a more personal tale, abeit with a generally lighthearted bent. The stories here are a little looser than some other storytelling events, but no less truthful, which may account for the inviting and relaxed nature of the event.
Storyteller Bios: Comics invited from Portland’s comedy community
Audience vibe: Extremely supportive and relaxed
Sell out potential: None. Free show!
Next show: New show TBA. Eugenio’s, 3584 SE Division.