Erin Petersen

Ex Fabula wants to hear your story

By - Nov 18th, 2009 12:38 am
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exfabLeah Delaney wants to help Milwaukee break out of its shell, or as she would say,  “I’m a big advocate for scaring the pants off yourself.”

Don’t get too excited just yet — her motives are hardly salacious. She’s talking about Ex Fabula, a brand new event that premieres this Thursday at ArtBar. Ex Fabula, Latin for “from stories” is an adaptation of the traditional storytelling model , but with a modern twist designed to engage the community and feature real-life narratives from anyone with a story to tell.

It’s not quite theater, nor is it performance art per se. There’s no stage, no intense lighting —just a person with a microphone in a low-key venue. Try to imagine something warmer, comfier and more intimate, like being with a group of friends and trading anecdotes.

“It’s everything but the fireplace,” Delaney says.

Ex Fabula was created by five movers and shakers on the Milwaukee scene who, until recently, had never met.  Delaney says she met fellow member Megan McGee (of Broadminded Comedy) while volunteering at the Milwaukee Film Festival and from there was introduced to Amy Schleicher, along with Adam Weise and Matt Sabljak of HarQen. Despite having no relation to one another prior to two months ago, Ex Fabula team members quickly realized that they all shared a similar passion: bringing unique, engaging storytelling to local audiences. For her part, Delaney  says she was drawn to storytelling because to her it represented a lost tradition, something that has been pushed aside as our technology advances.

“I feel like language is being narrowed down … through things like texting,” she says. “Our ability to express and communicate face-to-face is kind of a dying art form.”

She returned to Milwaukee after spending about eight years between Chicago and Brooklyn. She was inspired by how she’d seen this medium flourish in those cities and happy to see that the local arts scene here was “booming” and that there was  a real hunger for art.

Over the course of a few weeks, the  team honed the concept, finalized the show’s format, secured a top-secret list of storytellers  and arranged a venue for what is planned to be a monthly show.

ArtBar, 722 E. Burleigh

ArtBar, 722 E. Burleigh

Each event will have a theme — the first is aptly themed “Beginnings.” There are three sections: The Soloist; the Rashomon, which explores multiple perspectives by allowing two people to tell their versions of the same story, but neither will be able to hear the other’s account; and the last section is The Terkel, based on legendary radio personality and interviewer Louis “Studs” Terkel, which plays out as a Q&A between the reader and the Ex Fabula panel. Almost all of the participants are preselected; however, a few brave souls have the chance to share their stories during the soloist portion. Audience members can sign up to read before the show, and during the event about three people will be selected at random to take the mic.

While interpretations on the theme are encouraged, there are a few guidelines. For starters, each story is restricted to 4 to 5 minutes. Notes are not allowed and most importantly, all stories must be true. To ensure that each raconteur sticks to the “real-life experiences” format,  Ex Fabula released this disclaimer via its Facebook page:

“Ex-Fabula is a forum for true storytelling — not stand-up comedy, pontification, political diatribes, poetry or fiction. Please save those for other venues and bring us your great stories.” In other words, this ain’t no talent show.

Of course with any good story — especially those taken from your private life — there’s always room for a little embellishment to keep a story moving and to protect a certain amount of privacy. In fact, the idea of laying out your personal experiences to a group of strangers can be a pretty horrifying experience, but Delaney argues that it’s the human aspect to those stories that engages the audience and makes the story that much more interesting.

“It’s a terrifying concept in some ways — like going up [on stage] and taking all of your clothes off,” she says, “but it’s also very liberating and therapeutic at the same time … everyone has a story to tell, and people want to hear it.”

Ex Fabula makes its debut on Thursday, Nov. 19 from 8-10 p.m. at ArtBar, 722 E. Burleigh. Anyone interested in telling their “Beginnings” story should sign up by 7:30 and also prepare ahead by checking out the event guidelines. Admission is $3 at the door, and all proceeds go to benefit future Ex Fabula events.

0 thoughts on “Ex Fabula wants to hear your story”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, Erin. I’m going. — Strini

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