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Storytelling open-mic night presents students’ fascinating stories on misreading

By Noah Harper

Section: Arts

December 1, 2017

“Everybody has stories that they don’t know they have within them,” said Brandeis English Professor David Sherman, who organized Tuesday’s Storytelling Open-Mic night with the English Undergraduate Departmental Representatives (UDR). “Giving each other space or situations to tell them is just really important,” he added.

The event, held in Chum’s, had a cozy, intimate feel, with the couches turned in a semicircle and an encouraging, supportive audience. It was emceed by English UDR Rachel Moore ’19, who started things off by introducing the event’s theme: “Misreadings.”

It was a perfect opportunity for students to hone their storytelling skills in the company of a boosterish audience. We heard seven stories, all at least tangentially related to the idea of a “misreading.” This ranged from a friend mistakenly purchasing Coachella tickets to someone singing loudly during an “Annie” interlude as a young child.

“The Moth” is probably the best way to describe the event. Though people went up onstage by themselves, it wasn’t standup—there were funny moments, but the point was to tell a good story that somehow related to the theme, not to just get laughs.

My personal favorites came from stories about being mistaken over things involving their significant others in high school. One student discussed practicing BDSM with a girlfriend, though she would only use a non-leather belt (she was vegan). The girlfriend, just as unaware as he was, thought it was normal that her hand had turned purple. I especially liked the description of one of the girl’s friends walking in on them and taking far too long to figure out what was going on.

There was another great story about a girl with a high school crush who was kind of a self-admitted sociopath. She unabashedly described her early high school persona with aplomb. “I would wear fedoras unironically—my most prized possession was a gray cashmere feathered fedora.” I also liked how she would chronicle her crushes: “I’m going to write about this in the Google doc I have about my feelings.” Because let’s be honest—who doesn’t do that? It turned out the guy kind of was a sociopath, flirting openly with her and her friend at the same time.

We heard stories about forgetful, prejudiced suburban moms and aged, meth-addled grandpas. It was hilarious hearing about how one girl’s grandpa had once been in a gang and now was in a senior citizen service group of the same name. She also used some great descriptive language to describe him, saying he “looks like the fucking Crypt Keeper” and “lives in a Norman Bates murder house.”

There’s something powerful about a storytelling event like this. The intimate, impromptu feel allows people to share their stories in the spur of the moment, without fear of judgement. Some of my favorite stories from the night were from people who made the split-second decision to go up and share. I think this is a great community to foster on campus.

I really admire Professor Sherman’s efforts to develop a community of storytellers at Brandeis. “The ambition is to create a storytelling culture on campus and around Waltham,” he said. “The Brandeis Storytelling Brigade is kind of how we put ourselves, and the idea is to use an academic class to learn something you can use far beyond the classroom,” he explained.

“There’s a lot of amazing natural storytellers at Brandeis…They’re just really observant of the world and they have interesting interpretations of it…It’s just taking advantage of a lot of raw, natural talent and letting people share their talent with each other,” he continued.

For those interested, they can find out more about the Brandeis Storytelling Brigade on the group’s Facebook page. It’s a really warm, welcoming environment, and I’d encourage any storytellers on the fence about it to just give it a go. What’s the worst that could happen?

Sarah Terrazano, a senior copy editor for The Hoot, is an English UDR.

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