Dumb luck is sometimes on my side. My friend Erin is a producer with The Story Collider, a nonprofit group that organizes storytelling performances — creative non-fiction — about how science has changed people’s personal lives. Story Collider is based in New York, so I always thought it was a shame I would never get to see one of their shows.
And then I got assigned to a one-day trip to New York, and what should be happening that very evening but the Story Collider’s third-anniversary show. It was idiot-proof! I blocked out that evening’s calendar and bought a ticket a couple of weeks in advance.
The event was at a theater called The Bell House, which features a generous stage room with a bar to one side — a great place for an indie-rock show. This particular night, it was filled with a couple hundred folding chairs, and the place did fill up. Story Collider has a following strong enough that Erin and Story Collider founder Ben are being invited to take the concept to universities and conferences on the east coast and even in London.
A usual Story Collider event consists of five or six speakers, each delivering a 10- or 15-minute story around a particular theme. This being a birthday bash, there was no theme; Ben and Erin instead went out and got some real heavy hitters — a former child actor, a Macarthur fellow, a couple of prominent psychologists.
And they were great. The funny stories were damn funny — John Rennie sticking his arm into liquid nitrogen, on purpose, with effects that weren’t as bad as you’d imagine, but still weren’t good. Others swam into deeper waters. Amy Cuddy finished the show with the story of her own brain injury leading to a career studying the effects of brain trauma — and coping with losing the person she’d been before the accident.
You can hear for yourself: Stories from that evening have begun appearing on the Story Collider podcast, with Mara Wilson and Esther Perel leading it off.
I know Beth Lisick and Arline Klatte organized monthly storytelling shows in San Francisco several years ago, and I would guess someone else in the Bay Area has since picked up the torch. It’s a fine experience, if you happen to stumble upon one. Story Collider travels around, so keep an eye out for them.