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.  

 

Mortified
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.
Storytellers: Anyone with a well-logged diary from their teen years that can be sculpted into a story arc
Audience vibe: Embarrassed, squeamish, and nostalgic
Coached: Tellers work with a producer to edit their writings, which they can read, resulting in perhaps the most consistently strong performances in town.
Sell out potential: Two shows, and both sell out
Frequency: Bi-monthly
Next showSeptember 6–7, 7 pm. Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd. Tickets $15


Urban Tellers
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.
Coached: Yes
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
 

Sex: we love to talk about it, but rarely do we have the right venue. Mystery Box at Mississippi Studios is the right venue. Not for the morally dainty, stories here range from toe sucking to circle jerks to surprise visits to a European brothel. Audience as voyeur is taken to a whole new level with tales that titillate or disgust (or sometimes both at once).
Storytellers: Anyone with a story pitch that tickles the production team's fancy. Authors, musicians, actors, students, sex toy experts, adult film industry pros, etc.
Audience vibe: Focused, intent, and often uncomfortable (the theme is sex after all)
Coached: Yes
Sell out potential: High
Frequency: Bi-monthly
Next showOct 11, Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi. Tickets $14
 
Back Fence PDX is the godfather of Portland storytelling nights, drawing both the biggest names to its stage and the biggest audiences. It's so big, in fact, it now offers three different events. The performers come from varying backgrounds, from pet psychic to funeral home worker to scientist, to tell a story based on a monthly theme. They're coached, but not allowed to use notes, which means sometimes they go astray, but generally Back Fence storytellers are consistently some of the best in town.
Storytellers: Varied. Each lineup includes a healthy dose of veteran performers (musicians, actors, comedians) from Portland and some big name imports from New York, LA, and elsewhere (The Moth's Dan Kennedy, actor Wendi McLendon Clovey, etc.)
Audience vibe: Intense
Coached: Yes, but memorization is discouraged.
Sell out potential: High
Frequency: Bi-monthly
Next showAug 15, 8 pm. Theme: Blindsided. Storytellers featured: John Roderick (singer of Seattle-based band, the Long Winters), Cole Kazdin (Emmy-award winning TV producer, writer, performer), Andy Lindberg (host of Kick Ass Oregon History and played David 'Lard Ass' Hogan in the movie Stand By Me), and others. Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy. Tickets $13–20

 
Author/cartoonist Nicole Georges
Back Fence: Russian Roulette
Back Fence's risky version of a story slam, contestants spin a wheel to get a story prompt and then get five minutes to come up with a five minute (but still very true) story. The audience chooses the winner, who is invited back the following month to defend her title.
Storyteller Bios: Former Mainstage performers, stand up comedians, sketch comedy actors, writers, and other pinch-hitting raconteurs invited by the Back Fence production team
Audience vibe: Excited
Coached: No
Sell out potential: High
Frequency: Bi-monthly
Next showAug 16, 8 pm. Disjecta, 8371 N Interstate. Tickets $15–18

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
Coached: 
No
Sell out potential: 
High
Frequency: 
Infrequent
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

 

The Moth Story Slam

Ground Zero of the current storytelling craze, the Moth started in New York and has since found roots in all corners of the nation, including Portland, which hosts two story slams every month. What's a story slam? Anybody can walk in, put their name in a hat, and ten are selected to then get on stage and perform their (hopefully practiced, memorized, and honed) story based on the night's theme. Some really excellent story tellers get their start at slams, but they're often mixed in with many more midling (and some painful) colleagues. Each event is luck of the draw.
Storytellers: Anyone with the guts to put their name on the list
Audience vibe: Judgmental yet supportive
Coached: No
Sell out potential: High. It's still the Moth!
Frequency: Monthly
Next show: August 19, 7 pm. Theme: Deception. Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison. Tickets $8
 

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
Coached: 
Yes
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
Coached:
No
Sell out potential:
Low, however Floyd’s gets mighty packed.
Frequency:
Varies
Next show:
New show TBA. Floyd’s Coffee, 118 NW Couch. $5
 

Campfire Storytelling
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 

 

Awkward Phases
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
Coached:
No
Sell out potential:
None. Free show!
Frequency:
Monthly
Next show:
New show TBA. Eugenio’s, 3584 SE Division.

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