At Saturday night’s Word of Mouth event, audience members entered the Black Box Theater only to be a handed a slip of paper that said “My strange addiction is ___.” These slips were to be honestly and anonymously filled out and returned so that they could be read to the whole audience at different points throughout the night’s event.
Inspired by The Moth, a podcast of live storytelling events, Sophie Weir ’20, Annie Blackman ’20, Natalie Berger ’20 and JT Baldassarre ’20 decided to start a night of storytelling at Kenyon.
“Word of Mouth is a storytelling club that kind of functions like The Moth podcast,” Berger said. “We held auditions one weekend, and we had a bunch of people come in and just share a story that they had from their life.” From those who auditioned six storytellers were chosen to perform.
Every seat in the Black Box was filled. For the creators of this event, it was about so much more than just putting together an interesting night for the audience. “Sometimes there’s stories you can’t just bring up in conversations, and when you have a platform to tell a story of this length it is really interesting,” Weir said. There was a general buzz of excited conversation, and no one knew what exactly to expect. When the first storyteller, Daisy Collins ’20, walked onto the floor and started to tell her personal story, the sudden silence made it obvious that the whole audience was captivated by the natural and charismatic way she shared her story. She set the scene for the whole night by telling a love story about the gap year she spent assisting in a maternity ward.
After Collins, the mood was lightened by Rose Bialer ’20, who told a comical story about a girl she roomed with at summer camp and had the whole audience laughing out loud. Hannah Johnston ’20 framed a story of loss and recovery around a wedding cake. Will Nichol ’19 followed and told a story he couldn’t remember because of brain damage he suffered when he almost lost his life. Emma Raible ’20 failed an Art History exam only to find out she was colorblind at 18, and Steven Ring ’17 concluded the night with a story about helping others, in which a woman for whom he worked tried to lock him into her property so he wouldn’t leave her. “It’s like a little window … and you don’t necessarily come out of it knowing the person better, but you recognize them as an individual that has had these crazy things happen to them,” Weir said about the stories. Each of these stories was the true and personal experience of the storyteller.
The variety kept the audience on edge, just as the creators intended. “We looked for a diversity of tone. I think in order to sit and listen to people talk about themselves for an hour, I think people need to be engaged, and a diversity of stories is important,” Blackman said.
Last fall, the Peer Counselors hosted a similar event called “Kenyon Butterfly: Inspired by The Moth” where the theme was “hindsight,” but, according to the group, Word of Mouth will hopefully become a larger, ongoing series.
“When I first heard the stories I was absolutely blown away and hope that others will be too and then will want to audition more and we’ll get a large collective of people who want to tell their stories,” Weir said.