October 5, 2022

When Story & Verse Moves Inside, A Different Atmosphere Emerges

TELLING TALES: Storytellers and poets return to the stage of the Arts Council of Princeton’s Solley Theater on October 21 to take part in Story & Verse, a monthly series that welcomes all interested performers.

By Anne Levin

With fall officially here and winter not far behind, the monthly Story & Verse series moves October 21 to the Arts Council of Princeton’s Solley Theater from its warm-weather location, Pettoranello Gardens in Community Park.

For those who take their turns telling five-minute stories and reciting original poems at the microphone during the program, the change of venue brings a different atmosphere. But that’s not a bad thing.

“You kind of get two different kinds of events – one for outdoors, and one for indoors,” said the host of the event, an arts curator who goes by the pseudonym Brass Rabbit. “It’s a lot more free-form and relaxed outside. But indoors, there is a really calming effect. It’s more intimate.”

All are welcome and admission is free at Story & Verse events, a collaboration of the Arts Council and the African American Cultural Collaboration of Mercer County. The series began in February 2020 and has continued monthly since then. Story & Verse invites local and regional talent to perform original works inspired by a theme, which this month is “Eye of the Tiger.” The theme can be interpreted as broadly as an artist wishes. Each gathering includes 45 minutes of stories and 45 minutes of poetry, with a brief intermission.

“I think it’s a beautiful atmosphere, not just for those who participate but for those in the audience who are there to listen,” said Rabbit. “It’s never the same collection of people, environment, or attitude. It really feels like people are trying out new things. It’s sort of an incubation space, a kind of living room environment.”

Participants are as young as high-schoolers who are driven to the event by their parents, or older and retired. “It’s consistently growing,” she said. “There are always new faces of all ages. We get people who work at the University, people who are in the arts. I’m always a little surprised at what a diverse group we attract in terms of age, background, and things to say. We’re really lucky to have such a strong response from the community.”

Those who want to take part are randomly selected from names in a hat. Storytellers should prepare a five-minute story on the theme that is true and about the teller. They should follow the guidelines of The Moth, a nonprofit group based in New York City dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. Poets perform their own poetry for five minutes. Performers are selected at random, so it’s possible that not everyone gets a chance at the microphone.

Attendance varies. “Sometimes, we get huge crowds with so much energy,” said Rabbit. “But other times, it might be raining or bad weather, and we’ll get a tight, intimate group. I actually kind of prefer that because people seem to take a lot more risks in adding details, and I might give them a little extra time.”

At a recent Story & Verse event, one storyteller was particularly mesmerizing. “He was an architect who told one of the most engaging, funny, and exciting stories about being stuck over a street in New York in a train car during an architectural project,” Rabbit said. “You could have heard a pin drop in the room. It was really special and magical.”

The October 21 event begins at 7 p.m., and performers should arrive by 6:45 p.m. Visit artscouncilofprinceton.org for details.