MooreUnity and the Perkins Center for the Arts in Moorestown partnered to host a storytelling workshop for residents earlier this month.
MooreUnity is a nonprofit that works to increase and strengthen connections in the community through programming designed to bring individuals from different walks of life together. It does so by embracing diversity and facilitating unity.
Karen Reiner, its president, explained how the idea for bringing something fresh to Moorestown started.
“We at MooreUnity have been thinking about doing something like this for a long time, because we think there’s so much power in storytelling and so much human connection,” she said.
“At MooreUnity, we’re always looking for opportunities to bring people together, and bridge divides in the community by just having people simply get to know one another, and find shared values and shared experiences.”
Reiner told a story at the workshop that earned her second place at a story slam in New York last year sponsored by The Moth, a nonprofit that celebrates the commonality and diversity of human experience through the art and craft of true, personal storytelling, according to its website.
“It was a program that was started by some people who thought that there was a really great value in giving people an opportunity to tell stories that are from their own lives, that are true stories of events that shape them in some way,” Reiner said of The Moth.
By telling her story in front of people and seeing their support, Reiner was inspired to bring that experience to her community.
“In New York, you have all these comedians and actors and people who are professionals who are accustomed to being on stage, and I’m not, so that was pretty exciting,” she recalled.
“ … Ever since then, I’ve just been hooked on this idea of, ‘How much fun would you have sharing your stories, getting to know each other, finding what we have in common (and) learning from other people?’”
Starting in March, MooreUnity and Perkins will hold Hear Say, a four-session series planned for once a month. Participants will read two or three chapters of “How to Tell a Story: The Essential Guide to Memorable Storytelling from The Moth” and apply what they learned to improve a story of their choosing. After the series is over, attendees will have a chance to tell their story at one of Perkins’ outdoor concerts.
“I think it’s important to hold their (people’s) interest by keeping your story flowing in a logical direction, by sort of a push and a pull of the arc of the story,” Reiner noted of what she believes are crucial components of storytelling.
“So, building it up to a point where they are anticipating something is about to happen … They come along with you on this journey, and they are either nervous or excited or concerned with you.”
Reiner believes that storytellers and people connect more when the former demonstrates passion and emotion.
“You need to find a way to either make them laugh a little bit, or make them cry a little bit, or give them a chance to get a little bit of release of the emotion that’s being built up,” she pointed out.
Reiner hopes that Hear Say gives people in the community a chance to get to know each other in a personal and memorable way.
“I would hope that (people) gain a lot of joy from it (Hear Say) and that they feel more confident and willing to take some risks and step outside their comfort zone,” she said.
For more information on Hear Say, visit https://perkinsarts.org.