Personal, narrative stories from eleven high school seniors from the Arizona School for the Arts (ASA) drew thunderous applause at the Crescent Ballroom Wednesday night.
The storytelling event, called Shooflies, was organized by Amy Silverman, managing editor of the Phoenix New Times and a parent of an ASA student. The idea for Shooflies came from the New Times’ Bar Flies Series, a monthly narrative storytelling event at the Valley Bar. Silverman also spearheaded the Bar Flies series, so when she collaborated with other parents at ASA, Shooflies was born.
Silverman took on this intiative because she believes it is a great way for the students to express themselves.
“Everyone has their one big story that they haven’t told yet,” Silverman said. “And this way the students get to tell their stories.”
ASA was able to book the Crescent Ballroom thanks to the efforts of their development director, Marion Donaldson. Charlie Levy, the owner of Crescent Ballroom, has hosted ASA performances in the past, including last March when ASA’s jazz band played a concert in the venue.
“We’ve had several opportunities where Charlie has allowed our kids to perform here, and we’re going to continue to do that,” Donaldson said.
The stories the students told were written in class under the instruction of their teacher, Julie Hampton. The stories started off as a usual writing assignment; however, Hampton challenged the students to try to incorporate a learning experience into their stories. Stories were instructed to be 500 words or less.
“So many college essays are 500 words,” Hampton said. “So it was an attempt to get them to write something narrative that they could possibly submit for a college application.”
When it was time for the show to begin, the lights in the ballroom dimmed and the students stood in front in the stage’s blue light to share their personal narratives.
The students’ stories ranged from tales of overcoming insecurities to warm anecdotes about early childhood that taught them to appreciation their parents.
Claire Hetrick told the stories of her father, her neighbor and others she knows.
Camryn Norwood-Pearson confronted classmates who don’t tell the entire stories relating to Martin Luther King, Jr. or the Civil Rights Movement.
Although some of the stories had been written prior to the assignment, they had to be refined before they were ready to be read for the audience.
“Mine was a pretty personal story,” said Adele Ethridge Woodson, the first featured performer of the night. “At first I was kind of ‘iffy’ about sharing it, but this way it helps me become more comfortable with myself. I like performing in front of people, so that helped too.”
An earlier version of this story identified Marion Donaldson and Charlie Levy’s relationship as that of personal friends. It has since been updated to reflect their professional relationship.
Contact the reporter at Daniel.Perle@asu.edu