When Jessica Miles Henkin from The Stoop Storytelling Series emailed me out of the blue to ask if I would consider telling a story about my immigration experience at the Saturday, November 7th partnership show with the Baltimore Museum of Art, it took me about a quarter of second to respond that I would be thrilled to. The deal is that seven people get seven minutes each to tell a true, personal tale on a shared theme in front of a live audience. The truly wonderful thing is that Jessica and her partner, Laura Wexler, are building an oral history of Baltimore through their storytelling series. They’ve featured stories from hundreds of Baltimoreans, including Laura Lippman, “The Wire” creator David Simon, Congressman Elijah Cummings, BMA Director Doreen Bolger, and a host of “ordinary” folks.
The theme of this particular show was “Haven: Stories about finding, creating, and losing a home,” so yes, given my peripatetic existence, I did have a story to tell. But preparing to tell it was another matter. As a former actor, I was used to getting up in front of an audience, but then I could hide behind someone else’s words and character. As a broadcaster, I had learned to be myself and speak off the cuff, but that was with factual soundbites. As a writer, I knew about narrative arc, but then you have all the time in the word to shape and craft to find just the right word and format. All of those things – acting, broadcasting, writing – helped, but spontaneous story telling was a new, and steep, learning curve.
Laura and Jessica couldn’t have been more supportive, affirming, and constructive in their guidance and presentation, and the best part was hearing the other storytellers, which included a refugee from Togo and someone who wants to make her life on Mars. Please enjoy our stories here.