Organized live storytelling performances may be new to Bloomington, but they have been happening in big cities for years.
“Storytelling is something everyone does everyday,” said Laura Grover, the guiding force behind The Bloomintgon Storytelling Project. “We’re constantly telling stories, even ones that aren’t extraordinary, just when you get home from work and talk about your day with a loved one.”
It was in the fall of 2008, when Grover was working a tedious desk job that she developed the idea for the storytelling project. To pass the time, she listened to podcasts like This American Life, Radio Lab, and The Moth.
“I was listening to those constantly, and I was feeling so inspired by the end of the day even though I was doing this mindless work. I would go back home and talk about all the things I was listening to. I was really passionate about it.”
All Walks of Life
She sent out an open call for stories and organized the first storytelling even at Rachel’s Cafe. Since then, there have been events at The Bishop in downtown Bloomington and in Nashville, Indiana. Grover commented that the venue affects which sorts of storytellers perform at an event. While the two Bloomington venues attracted mostly college-aged storytellers, the event in Nashville presented performers over 40 years old.
“I think it really reaches across all walks of life because everyone has stories,” Grover said. “There’s nothing specific that you need to go to school for or be trained in to have a life worth telling stories about.”
How to Tell a Great Story
As the organizer, Grover is responsible for vetting the storytellers. She said that a great storyteller can make even the most simple event engaging to an audience. It’s about telling all sides of the story, “what this person was thinking, what I was thinking, what it looked like when you step outside the box,” Grover said.
Expanding the Project
As the project continues to grow, Grover has visions of expanding it to other communities in the Midwest. As opposed to the storytelling events in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles, the events in Bloomington have a grass roots feel to them. “These smaller intimate spaces with regular people from all walks of life getting together… it’s much less ‘big city.'”
For the project to keep growing, Grover said she needs more storytellers. It doesn’t take performance experience, she said. “If you have a story that you’ve told to a group of friends and you’ve told it enough times that it becomes so fluid because it’s an extension of yourself. It’s easy to project that.”