Everyone has a story to tell. So says Aimee Kass, who until recently was a longtime co-facilitator of Do Tell!, the monthly story night at Ethical Culture. And in those stories, people find connection, says Eric Sandhusen, one of the original founders of Do Tell!
DoTell! itself is a story. It started about three years ago when the American Ethical Union set up a scholarship fund for a special project that would involve outreach, says Bob Gordon, co-founder. Someone proposed a Moth (named for NPR’s Moth story hour) training event, a weekend storytelling training for people from various societies who could then go back and train others. “Storytelling brings people in,” Bob said, adding that he and Paolo Ribiero attended the training.
‘Great to be seen and to be heard’
As chair of the Adult Education Committee, “I thought it would be nice to have a more participatory and interactive type of program,” Eric said. “Two basic things are valuable: Personally, it’s really great to be seen and to be heard and to be able to tell a story that’s meaningful to you. The very act of telling a story has value,” he said, adding, “When you have an audience, people who are able to receive it, there’s a connection.”
Bob now facilitates the monthly Do Tell! sessions and Eric leads Do Tell! sessions at Community Weekend and as an occasional platform, including the Do Tell! Diner one Sunday over the December holidays last year.
Bob uses his weekend training, courtesy of the AEU, to help other storytellers. “They coach you on not only the elements of a story, but how to introduce it, keep the tension going, and to end it so that people will feel they were entertained,” Bob said.
Of course, the storytelling offers more than entertainment, both Aimee and Bob say.
“When you go to Do Tell!, there is almost an AA quality,” Aimee said. “Your story is safe; no one is going on Facebook to tell your story. There is a certain shared humanity…people smile and nod as if to say: I’ve been in that situation.”
In addition to the Do Tell! story night—now every third Wednesday of the month at 7:30 pm—Bob facilitates the Do Tell! workshop on the first Wednesday of the month. Here, he provides tips on shaping and pacing a story for maximum impact and provides opportunities for practice. The ideal story, Bob says, is four to seven minutes long.
Some want to test their courage
Some who attend Do Tell! want to tell a story and some want to test their courage by seeing if they can speak in public, Aimee says, adding that some attendees just like to listen to a good story.
And what good is a story without listeners, Bob asks. He would like to grow the regular attendance at Do Tell! and is exploring the possibility of partnering with The Puffin, a friend of our Ethical Culture Society that has collaborated on Society events in the past and that can seat 100 people.
“Bring your friends, bring your neighbors,” Bob says. “It’s a fun and cheap evening of entertainment.”