One might think that in the digital age, with everyone blogging, texting, and instant messaging, the art of oral storytelling would wane. On the contrary, at Write Yourself Free (WYF), the community-oriented center for writers owned by Tish Fried and Patrick McCord, storytelling is experiencing a revival.
At this month’s gathering, the “Bad Love” theme was aptly timed for Valentine’s Day. Guests laughed and guffawed, and afterward the feeling was like having been to a great dinner party, enriched by the company of a room full of smart, creative guests.
Tales were well paced, laced with visual imagery, and punch lines delivered with the timing of a seasoned standup. This is not to say that the group is exclusive – the only request is that storytellers sign up in advance – but it was evident that the participants are committed to their craft.
Great Friday Night Out
For $10 and the effort of an RSVP, guests get to drink wine, eat home baked cookies, and share the camaraderie of the talented storytellers.
It takes guts to go first, especially when a rubber chicken and a light-up applause box are displayed inches from the hot seat, but Willy Kaye of Rowayton wasted no time chronicling the long ago unraveling of his marriage – “aka The ballad of Frank’s Desk.”
Looking back, Kaye admitted that his marriage had just about run its course, but the end was hastened by his wife’s liaison with his best friend. Kaye described briefly indulging in some culprit-stalking, followed by a dalliance with images of violence, but, as he explained with a wink, he was advised against this pursuit by his therapist.
At the time, recalled Kaye, “I had no guile... I couldn’t maintain a façade any more.” He quickly lightened the moment with the image of himself searching “incendiary bomb” on the internet. “It didn’t occur to me that I shouldn’t be looking for a remote detonator online. Mind you, it was well before 9-11.”
Eventually Kaye opted for a symbolic act of violence. Sitting in his Manhattan office and seething at the desk that had been handcrafted by his disloyal friend, Kaye hatched a plan around 3:00am. Stowing the desk into his building’s service elevator, he hauled it into his car, popped in his Pat Benatar tape, and drove to what he described as “a vastly barren section of the West Side highway.”
With safety goggles and sledgehammer at the ready, plus two jock straps and a dose of adrenaline, Kaye described how he set about pulverizing the desk in a fit of rage. “In the middle of it, I asked myself, ‘Aren’t you scared?’ Then I decided if I told the truth, a policeman would probably encourage me, if not offer to help me.” Before the sledgehammer finally came to rest, the desk was reduced to splinters. “Afterward, the homicidal part was over and I felt better.”
Annette Basalyga, the award-winning poet, captivated listeners with her story, which she titled, “How I learned to love bad boyz, with a Z.” Basalyga, who makes her home in Bridgeport, recalled the allure of a 16-year-old boy who fell into the category of ‘not cute.’ Despite having “a nose that was growing faster than his face,” to a 13-year old girl, Leonard Spazio possessed something wildly attractive: a driving permit.
“Also, he told me he could juggle and that sounded terrific,” said Basalyga. Unfortunately her good “walking and talking pal” disappeared one night. In a grim conversation, her concerned parents explained that Leonard had been arrested. Something to do with a stolen car.
For the next eight years Basalyga got to study with The Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Eventually, Basalyga landed at Iowa Writers’ Workshop where men outnumbered women six or seven to one, and “parties were spontaneous and ongoing.” There, she said “I met so many unimaginably bad boys.”
Other featured storytellers included Sequoia Sun, who recalled with forgiveness a former girlfriend who convinced him to load his truck with “left over Belgian blocks” she had permission to remove from a worksite and the process of explaining his innocence to the police.
Betsey Bowen had the house in fits of laughter as she recalled a well-groomed curly blonde-haired boy who mended her broken heart. He was “perfect,” she said, and she continued to date him for a time even after learning he made his home inside his car.
Watch This Space
The monthly storytelling night has become such a big draw that, according to Fried, “Next month, when the theme is ‘The Ides of March – when you should have known better,” the event may move to a bigger venue.
Located at 252 Post Road East, offers workshops in screenwriting, memoir writing, children’s literature, and songwriting, as well as editorial and publishing support.
Tel: (203) 557-4614. Email firstname.lastname@example.org