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Next monthly noncompetitive event takes place July 21 at Milwaukie's Chapel Theatre

COURTESY PHOTO: JASMINE NOTHING - Carlos Kareem Windham shares their story with the audience at the Chapel Theatre.  "We are all walking around this world like we're the stars of our own movies, thinking that we're the only ones that are feeling however we feel. Like we're wrong, or weird, or broken or bad," said Jasmine Nothing.COURTESY PHOTO: JASMINE NOTHING - Jasmine Nothing shares her story during a Telltale event.

After the 2016 election, she was feeling furious all the time, and in 2017, she decided to create a monthly, curated storytelling show called Telltale.

"Telltale is for people who like to get vulnerable. In a world that continues to feel more and more unsafe, disconnected and lonely, I wanted to create something that could help to counteract all that," Nothing said,

"If you care about people, and you're paying attention, a lot of the events of the last several years have felt traumatic, and one of the only things that's proven to counteract trauma is a sense of community," she said.

Telltale allowed her to create her own, supportive community, and she feels grateful that month after month, people spend several hours telling their stories or listening to the stories of others.

No competition

Although there are storytelling events in Portland, Nothing wanted to create one that did not have a competitive component.

"Everybody in the audience just wants to connect with you, and you don't have to be a polished or professional storyteller," she said.

The shows are a mix of comedians, musicians, poets and people who have never spoken into a microphone.

There is no application process or story pitching, Nothing said, adding that those who want to perform are added to the lineup for an upcoming event.

"We want everybody to feel like their story is welcome and an important and part of it," she said.

"We charge $12 at the door, which goes towards renting the venue and paying the performers, but we also don't turn anyone away for lack of funds because money shouldn't get in the way of being able to access art," she said.

Sharing stories

One thing that sets humans apart from other species is our ability to tell stories.

"Stories give us these tiny peeks into the experiences of other people, and find out that we aren't so uniquely messed up at all," Nothing said.

"And maybe someone with a completely different seeming life than yours actually has some of the same feelings or experiences, too," she added.

Nothing noted that we all love stories, whether that involves "movies, books, songs, telling your best friend something that happened over a cup of coffee or a whiskey… stories are part of how we communicate all the time."

Getting vulnerable

One reason sharing vulnerability is so important to Nothing, is that in this country we talk about the advantages of being strong, or resilient or independent.

"We think that being independent and able to do everything on our own is the pinnacle of what we should be reaching for, but I don't think it's been working out so great for us," she said.

"The really bold and strong thing to do is reach out to the people around you, be openly flawed and imperfect and soft, and form community," Nothing said.

Telltale allows participants to offer parts of themselves to others and accept when others do the same.

She noted that by offering up her own vulnerability, and talking about her own mental health, trauma and mistakes, she's made connections to many people she would not have met otherwise.

Positive reactions

Looking back on the last five years of shows, Nothing noted that any show where she has managed to make people both laugh and cry makes her feel good.

"There's also this thing where people all make the same 'oooooo' noise at the same time in response to something, and I think it's amazing that as a culture, we can all be strangers, but we all know when we're supposed to make an 'ooooooo' sound," she said. People should come see if the show "if they want to feel less alone, if their heart is broken, if they want to meet new people, if they want to feel like they're part of something," Nothing said.

She noted that because people's stories are not censored, and some may include intense things or graphic language, the shows may not be appropriate for children.

She also asks people to continue masking and showing vaccination cards, in order to make the shows feel safer for everyone. Nothing added, "There will be heavy confessions and big laughs; there will be stories from people you wouldn't ever get to meet otherwise. Life is short; spend a few precious hours of it with us."

Telltale

When: 7:30 p.m. on July 21

Where: Chapel Theatre, 4107 S.E. Harrison St., Milwaukie

More: telltalepdx.com


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