Unchained Storytelling

We believe that the art of the raconteur – the telling of unscripted, personal, porch-style stories – is one of the great arts, and that nights of storytelling are vital to any vibrant and healthy community. 

                                     ~ Program for Unchained Deep South Tour, 2013

Last Saturday the Unchained storytellers made a stop in Huntsville on their Deep South Tour. I found out at the last minute, but was still able to snag a seat to the show.

The Unchained bus in Huntsville, AL

The performance was at our local arts mecca, a place called Lowe Mill. It’s an old factory that has been reclaimed as an arts collective. There’s a printing press, artist studios, a puppet company, and a cigar box guitar maker. They hold workshops for burlesque, hooping, shoe making, and painting. And in a small trailer out front is the only all-vegetarian restaurant in town. In short, if you visit Huntsville on a Saturday then one of your best bets for meeting cool people is to go to Lowe Mill and wander through their artist’s market.

When I found out that Unchained was going to happen in Huntsville, I was excited. I’d read about the tour on Neil Gaiman’s blog, where he traveled with them for a short time. One of my favorite things in the world is to hear stories told aloud. Hearing stories changes the way I experience them. I feel closer to the action, the characters, the core of what is being said.

Scene on the side of the bus

The evening started off with a song, “Flawless Executioner,” by Christopher Paul Stelling. And it was amazing. You could feel the crowd open up, get ready to experience the exceptional.

Peter Aguero told the first story, ending on a cliffhanger to welcome the audience to a night of storytelling. Micaela Blei told a story about third graders playing war, Tim Manley took us to his childhood illness with energy, and Annie Duke revealed behind the scenes scheming. 
The group also made sure that local stories were told, and asked for volunteers to enter their names for the chance to tell their story. Three people were called to the stage and given one minute each. 
It was a night of masterful storytelling. No cellphones went off, no one held up their cameras to take photographs during the show. It was stressed at the beginning – we were all going to sit together and tell stories for a few hours, and everything else could wait. 
It was an amazing experience. 
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2 thoughts on “Unchained Storytelling

  1. That sounds like so much fun! I think storytelling–in this venue and on smaller scales–is coming pack into popularity. Or I perceive that it is, anyway. I think it's great, cultivating an appreciation for words and story, as well as creating a sense of community between the storyteller and the listeners. So cool.

  2. Diatryma says:

    There's a group in Iowa City that does storytelling– no notes, anything else goes, pretty much. I told the tale of Christmas Mouse a year ago.

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