‘The Show Must Go On!’ Preview, Part 2: Interview with Jessica Myles Henkin

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Stoop Storytelling, the Baltimore-based live show and podcast that features regular people telling “the extraordinary, true tales of their lives” is partnering with Everyman Theatre to present a night of side-splitting stories about the real-life blunders and behind-the-scenes hijinx of the Baltimore theater community. In the spirit of Everyman’s last show of the 2016/17 season – the classic farce, Noises Off, The Show Must Go On! will feature some of Charm City’s favorite theater artists, telling stories about the unpredictability of live performance:

Jay Herzog (Everyman Theatre)
Roy Taff (Baltimore Improv Group)
Maria Broom (Baltimore School for the Arts)
Josh Kohn (Performance Director, Creative Alliance)
Jessica Murphy Garrett (Single Carrot Theatre)
Jimi Kinstle (Theatre teacher at Roland Park Country School)
Tomi Rinaldi (Actor)
Kimberley Lynne (University of Baltimore)

Patricia: Please introduce yourself and tell our readers a little bit about you.

Jessica: I founded The Stoop Storytelling Series with my friend, Laura Wexler, in 2006. When not doing the work of finding storytellers to tell true, personal stories on a theme in front of the nicest audience in America (Baltimore!), I work for the Baltimore City Public School System; am the parent of two wonderful kiddos; perform improv comedy with the Baltimore Improv Group; and am the wife of WYPR radio producer, Aaron Henkin, who will be hosting this Everyman event by my side.

What is Stoop Storytelling and how did it come into being?

The Stoop Storytelling Series is a Baltimore-based live show and podcast that features “ordinary” people telling the extraordinary, true tales of their lives. Stoop stories are not memorized, performed, or read. They’re shared. Stoop shows are intimate and surprising, wonderful and weird, hilarious and heartbreaking. In addition to its mainstage shows at The Senator Theatre, The Stoop presents Special Events, Workshops, and Second Stoop open mic evenings. Since its founding in 2006, The Stoop has featured the tales of more than 1,000 people onstage. The Stoop was the idea of Laura Wexler, who saw Porchlight while vacationing with friends in San Francisco. Upon her return, she told me about how much she loved the storytelling event and convinced me to start something like it in Baltimore. We approached the Creative Alliance with the idea in 2005 and they were extremely supportive. The first theme was Failure, just in case the show was a bust… It wasn’t.

Why is storytelling important? Particularly in 2017 when people broadcast their thoughts and lives play-by-play, in real time?

Connecting people and creating empathy for others’ journeys is what The Stoop Storytelling Series is all about. Through The Stoop, we’ve shepherded hundreds of Baltimoreans through revelations big and small, lighthearted and profound, in front of an incredibly supportive audience who wants only for the storyteller to win.

What is The Show Must Go On!?

This is an exciting opportunity for The Stoop, as it will be the first time we’ve produced a show with only performers sharing their stories. We’re often giving people a first-time experience in front of a live audience. This event will feature true, personal stories about persevering while performing, even when the performer might want to just walk off the stage, get in their car, drive home and crawl into bed.

The motto of The Stoop Storytelling Series is “Everyone has a story.” So, would the motto of The Show Must Go On! be “every performer has a story?”

Yes! And some of them are REAL doozies! Actors, literally, go big or go home.

How do you gather stories for The Stoop? Was the same process used for The Show Must Go On!?

We put out a call for stories and folks email us with submissions. We review the submissions, reach out to the ones that seem like they’d be the best fit for the show, and set up phone “interviews” of sorts. We also just ask people. Like, Roy Taff plays with me in the Baltimore Improv Group. The story he is sharing at The Show Must Go On! is one that I could never un-hear so it was a no-brainer to ask him to participate.

What can the audience expect to see on May 22nd? Does it have a cabaret feel about it, except that the participants don’t get to rehearse beforehand?

There is a brief rehearsal with all the prospective storytellers, which allows them to form a bond that is usually evident to the audience. The show will be a positive, high-energy event that is crafted, but casual.

Do you think there is anything that will surprise people about the show?

Yes! The stories are ALWAYS surprising.

Once The Show Must Go On! is over and we’re all craving more stories, where can we find out about future Stoop Storytelling events and podcasts?

I love this question! We have a weekly podcast called (wait for it) “The Stoop Storytelling Series Podcast” that can be found on iTunes and Stitcher. Our last show of the season will be at the Columbia Festival of the Arts on Friday, June 23rd. The theme is My Favorite Film. We are in the process of planning our next season at The Senator (year 12!) and we’re always open to theme, band, and storyteller suggestions. Feel free to email us at info@stoopstorytelling.com!

The Show Must Go On! is a one-night-only affair – Monday, May 22, 2017. Pre-show happy hour, with live music from The Slanted Sound, starts at 6:00pm; the show begins at 7:30 PM. For tickets, call the Everyman Theatre box office at (410) 752- 2208, or purchase them online.

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