SLOlio, a different kind of open mic night that focuses on personal stories, brought a varied audience. “The people that tell stories always change, so the tempo of the night changes with that,” storyteller Charley L’Abri said. “I like that we have a lot of different aged people because you get all these crazy stories that are way out of my world.”
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Humans have been gathering to tell stories since the dawn of time. From campfires to dinner parties, the art of storytelling has been transformed from explaining why things are the way they are to personal experiences that have shaped the person you are.
Linnaea’s Cafe co-owner David Arndt’s favorite night of the month is when community members from around San Luis Obispo flock to his establishment to tell their own stories.
“I love hearing stories being told,” Arndt said. “There is something very earthy and very primal about it.”
The storytelling open mic event held at Linnaea’s Cafe, SLOlio, has only a few rules: The story has to be true, inspired by a previously announced theme, told without notes and fall within a timeline of eight to 10 minutes.
This past Wednesday marked the 28th SLOlio gathering with the theme “Call in the Troops,” eliciting many different interpretations and conjuring memories in the minds of the storytellers.
Stories included adventures from foreign countries, medical emergencies, failed Halloween costume contests, Tibetan monks and days past with the Young Socialist Alliance.
SLOlio participant Maggy Troup has attended the event a handful of times; she described two experiences from her life at past events. This time, she shared a story about being saved from a bad Craigslist date.
“I like the themes that they have because you can take them in any different direction,” Troup said. “It is really nice, some people take it as a literal translation and then some people take it a different way.”
The retelling of these life moments captured the audience’s attention, worked in their imaginations and facilitated a feeling of connection. Event organizer Kirk Henning has been telling stories for more than two decades and enjoys the entertainment and social value of stories.
“I looked up the word ‘entertainment’ one time, where it meant entering the mind,” Henning said. “I like that aspect of it, but it is also really helpful for people to hear stories sometimes. It helps them in their lives.”
Sharing intimate stories about personal life experiences to an audience full of strangers may not seem like a comfortable, fun time at first. However, the stories were filled with funny coincidences, relatable moments and an authenticity that is, at times, hard to find.
“Most of the stories we get end up being a combination of being very humorous and pretty deep,” Henning said. “They are very nourishing. You come away feeling very nourished as far as relating to shared experience.”
The trick to good storytelling is a vulnerability and willingness to share something that shaped your life or has been important to you personally in some way, he said.
“Anecdotes are not bad by any means, but when stories are able to wrap themselves around something that means something to you, then it is going to mean that for the audience as well,” Henning said.
Audience members ranged from college-aged students to retired San Luis Obispo residents.
SLOlio storyteller Charley L’Abri enjoyed the mixed audience because of the diversity and dimension it gave to the stories.
“The people that tell stories always change, so the tempo of the night changes with that,” L’Abri said. “I like that we have a lot of different aged people because you get all these crazy stories that are way out of my world.”
All of the stories are recorded and put on the SLOlio website after the event so those who missed the event can listen or those who attended can listen to a story again.
“Every month there are one or two stories that stand out, that are really worth hanging onto,” Arndt said. “There are several that I have gone back to and listened to again just because I enjoyed them so much. There are some that I have shared with others.”
The next SLOlio gathering is scheduled for Nov. 20 with the theme of “Worth the Wait.”