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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Odyssey sets up circles for storytelling

    Odyssey sets up circles for storytelling

    Stories are constantly being told ­ through newspapers, podcasts, YouTube videos, iChat. But with the steady barrage of stories in a haze of technology, it’s easy to tune out. This Thursday at Club Congress, the StoryArts Group presents its monthly storytelling event, Odyssey Storytelling, where one story is told at a time, and everyone else just listens.

    Odyssey’s producer, Penelope Starr, a blogger for the Tucson Citizen, created the event in 2004 after she was inspired by a similar event at Porchlight Storytelling in San Francisco. At each Odyssey event, six people tell 10-minute stories about a specific theme — they aren’t memorized or read, but told to the audience like a close circle of friends.

    “”We recruit people from all walks of life (to tell their stories),”” Starr said. “”Audience members are often so intrigued that they will try their hand at storytelling.””

    StoryArt’s mission is straightforward — to preserve and promote the tradition of storytelling to build community. Stories have always been used to pass on tradition, impart morals and tell history. Odyssey takes its name from Homer’s epic, one of the most widely read stories in history. But Homer’s “”Odyssey”” also fits Odyssey’s mission — it was told orally and captured the spirit, values and history of a people. “”It’s all about community,”” Starr said. “”We always have community announcements during breaks between stories. It’s about networking, linking and making connections.””

    Each event has a designated theme, but that’s about where the homogeny ends. Every storyteller is strikingly unique, and no two have the same story. This Thursday’s theme is “”Masks: Hidden Identity,”” and Starr encourages creative interpretation of the theme. “”The themes are meant to be interpreted extremely broadly. If the theme were flying, it could be literally flying or high on drugs. That’s what makes a fun show — when there’s a lot of diversity in our storytellers,”” Starr said.

    Three stories are told at a time, followed by a short intermission during which community announcements are made. During this break, too, is when Starr recruits a bold volunteer from the audience to take the stage and tell a totally spontaneous, totally unprepared story for three minutes, capturing storytelling in its purest and most naked form.

    Starr continues to be surprised with each storytelling event. “”Sometimes the stories are tragic, sometimes hilarious; they’re all over the place. That’s the thing, you don’t know what you’re going to get,”” she said. “”The storyteller could be a plumber, a student friend down the hall, a lawyer. The tellers invite all their friends to build an audience, and it’s more fun for them to share and get support.””

    Odyssey’s goal is to encourage people to keep telling stories, but more importantly, to keep listening to them and learning from them. “”We are here to facilitate other people telling their stories,”” Starr says. “”It’s not about our stories, but the community’s.””

    If you are interested in becoming a storyteller, contact StoryArts at their website,

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