Video by Lauren Marshall
Participants told of cringe-worthy moments, sexual incidents and family secrets for six minutes each at Chatterbox Storytelling Open Mic’s event on Wednesday at Grand Central Coffee Company.
“My main mission is helping to create storytelling culture in Phoenix,” Chatterbox producer and storyteller Dan Hull said, stressing the importance of frequent open mic events to solidify the “bedrock” of this culture. “It’s a workout room. It’s a space for them to try out new stuff.”
Chatterbox spent the past month getting a feel for hosting events at the new Grand Central space and will be ready to officially host its grand opening event on Nov. 2. The grand opening will be an open mic storytelling event themed “The Whole Truth.”
Hull said the group has been doing open mic for six years in Phoenix, with events previously held at Lawn Gnome Publishing before moving to Grand Central. Participants in Wednesday’s “Skeletons in the Closet” themed open mic shared personal stories.
“A lot of these stories, this is the first time a person’s telling it outside of family and friends,” Hull said. “There’s a real rawness to it.”
The skeleton Hull pulled from the closet concerned a time as a young child, when he and his brother stole coins from a bowl collecting money for children with muscular dystrophy. They took the coins in order to ride the small rides outside of a convenience store.
Kari Reith spoke about her encounter with a man at his workplace, which she showed up to wearing lingerie and a black trench coat. “…I hadn’t before that night ever been bent over a speaker box,” she said.
Many of the performers began storytelling because of a connection to Hull or host Jessie Balli.
“I know most of the people here, and they know me, and they bring their friends,” Hull said.
Storyteller and host of Crescent Ballroom’s “Then it Got Weird” Marnee Burrus began storytelling two years ago through Balli and has been doing it “literally every week since. It’s addicting,” Burrus said.
“I’m a pretty awkward person,” Burrus said. “But I guess when I tell a story, I get to reclaim a moment and I can make it whatever I want.”
Chatterbox will also be at the Arizona State Fair on Friday night. The Storyline Collective, a group made up of The Storyline, Then It Got Weird and Chatterbox will bring storytellers to perform at 6 and 8 p.m. Among them is Sean David Christensen, who just broke into the live storytelling scene this September.
“It’s a very empowering thing to be able to hold the microphone and hear your voice amplified and know that you control that,” said Christensen, who began telling stories for Chatterbox through Balli and Hull.
Chatterbox hosts open mic nights every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. on the back patio of Grand Central Coffee Company.
Clarification: November 1, 2016
An earlier version of this story failed to specify that Chatterbox storytellers would be performing at the Arizona State Fair at both 6 and 8 p.m. It has been updated.
Contact the reporter at Nicole.Neri@asu.edu.