With the prevalence of social media, we find ourselves in a place where anyone can share anything. Are we desensitized to sharing, to telling, to real community? Looking at a screen and reading about your acquaintance’s (for the most part meaningless) anecdote of the day, sometimes it feels like it. Fighting against this apathy toward sharing is a growing community based in Appleton who is re-igniting the passion for storytelling here in the Fox Cities. This community, called Storycatchers, is asserting the value of good, old-fashioned storytelling by bringing people together at periodic storytelling events.
The community (this is the most accurate descriptor of Storycatchers at this point, which is a “still-being-defined thing”) got its start with small storytelling workshops, but now, a year into its existence, Storycatchers is continuing to grow and evolve. “I haven’t wanted to define it as … one set thing,” says founder Tara Pohlkotte. Added to its program have been live events, where anybody can go up on the stage and tell a 5-minute story. Participants are given a general theme, but aside from that, it’s free reign. The most recent of these events happened on June 25 with a summer theme.
In the future, these live sessions will be more curated so that the event won’t go for too long. “That’s been a beautiful problem… At the beginning it was like, ‘I don’t know if anyone will do this,’ but … [we] have too many people that want to,” Pohlkotte says. Tweaking it so that it is a little more curated will just involve the submission of an outline or a short pitch from those interested in sharing.
These events are hoping to offer a non-intimidating, meaningful, but also light and carefree environment where anyone would feel comfortable sharing a story. “[It’s] not just professionals telling their stories. We want it to be everybody.” Participants might tell their stories off the cuff or by reading from something pre-written. “However it comes out naturally to you is how you should express it,” Pohlkotte says. All are welcome and encouraged. This aspect of the community is also what sets it apart from other storytelling-centered groups in the country, like The Moth, which often encourages participants to memorize and recite.
Is there still value in this style of storytelling? Social media helps, for Pohlkotte, to support the case that storytelling is still relevant. “I actually think social media is a perfect example of why storytelling is still so important… We’re all doing it! That’s what Facebook is. People want to share.”
At the root of the draw toward storytelling, though, is community. “I think everybody is looking for connection,” says Pohlkotte. The equivalent of a group of people having shared experiences around a bonfire is hard to find online sometimes, and that’s what a live Storycatchers event can offer.
The next of these live events will be on September 17 at 7pm at The Refuge in Appleton. The theme is “What I wish they had told me…” Story submissions are due on September 1. If you’re eager to tell a story, though, you can find Storycatchers in the meantime at a couple of other places: 1) There will be an informal Storycatchers meetup at The Refuge on July 25, 2) Storycatchers will be at Mile 4 on August 6 in Appleton. Catch one of their workshops or stop by the booth to record a story of your own!