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Use Your Words 

After sitting around the Thanksgiving table not listening to your relatives' stories, 2nd Street Theater offers a more sophisticated—and perhaps less opinionated—form of storytelling

As soon as humans learned how to draw in caves, we were making pictures of the great hunt we just went on, or of the gods we hoped had our best interests at heart. These days, even those of us with deeply ingrained fears of public speaking know the joys of having someone wrapped around our little finger as they wait to hear What Happens Next. We tell stories to make the unimaginably giant world a little smaller, so we can find our place in it just a bit easier.

As civilization has moved on to music, the written word, motion pictures and other forms of modern communication, the art of telling a story without any added frills is something that could easily fall by the wayside. In Bend, Two Twisted Sisters and 2nd Street Theater are fighting to keep the form alive with the upcoming storytelling session: "To Tell the Truth."

One storyteller, Dr. Michael Coffman, perfectly describes what keeps the art of oral storytelling fresh: "When the story is a good one, we refresh and re-tell it to multiple audiences. Unlike a movie or book, a live storyteller can adapt their delivery to react to an audience's interests: Employing an even more spooky tone to thrill the person in the front row whose face betrays an encounter of a similar experience, for example—or focusing more on the romantic elements for the dreamy-eyed teen."

An enraptured audience listens to the Two Twisted Sisters, previously held at the Old Stone Church. - HOWARD SCHOR
  • Howard Schor

  • An enraptured audience listens to the Two Twisted Sisters, previously held at the Old Stone Church.

Even as technology and culture moves forward, they shouldn't take away from the original traditions that still offer so much to our culture. "Its so easy, nowadays, to lose connection with stories by just reading them on paper or online," says musical guest Stephanie Crespo. "I feel like the best storytellers really invest themselves into any form of storytelling, to share a piece of themselves with the audience. This gives the audience the chance to experience an adventure vicariously through the performer and gives the performer the opportunity to really become so vulnerable—that they take you out of reality and into this story."

The Two Twisted Sisters, throwing the event over the Thanksgiving weekend, explain what makes modern storytelling such an enduring, relevant art form: "Nothing comes between the storyteller and the audience. No visual aids, no notes. Nothing! They're out there telling their truth as near to naked as the local law allows."

Just as a piece of live theatre exists only in that moment, for a specific audience, so does oral storytelling. There's no pausing to use the restroom and no cutting to get a better take: this will always be the version of this story that exists for the audience and the storytellers. It's an ephemeral art form that gives body and form to any fleeting thought that comes in the moment.

Crespo puts it even better: "That's ultimately what I think storytelling is: an escape from reality and the journey through someone else's experiences and life lessons. Some stories are just for entertainment or a laugh, but the best stories are the ones that give you something to take with you for the rest of your life. That in itself is true art."

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