The ancient art of storytelling gets an update this Sunday at the Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis.
In fact, every third Sunday of the month, a group of "Gen Y" yarn spinners regale audiences with edgy tales of woe, wisdom and awkward situations. They call themselves the Rockstar Storytellers.
Allison Broeren is a good example of how the Rockstar Storytellers roll. One night last year she stood before an audience, weaving a story that referred to a sleep disorder medication and its side effects.
"Drowsiness, dizziness, diarrhea, drug feeling," Broeren said, reading her script. "Moving past the D's to confusion, euphoria, headache, insomnia, vertigo, agitation, anxiety, decreased cognition, detachedness, difficulty concentrating, hallucinations, leg cramps, migraines, hiccups, and a bunch of words that I didn't know what they meant!"
"It sounded good so I popped a couple..."
Broeren is one of 12 Rockstar Storytellers who came together as a group a couple years ago because they were tired of having only the Fringe Festival to perform in.
What they have in common, said co-founder Allegra Lingo, is an admiration for each other's work and a need to push boundaries and buttons.
"We don't judge on the way that anybody wants to tell their story," she said. "We really feel that effectiveness is the key to what we're all about."
Take Rockstar Storyteller Courtney McLean. "I felt like a bride on her wedding day," she says reminiscing about the Playboy mansion birthday party she went to for celebrity screenwriter and former Twin Citian Diablo Cody.
"So many people to see and talk to and so many things to do!" McLean said. "I danced in a mad fury fueled by free drinks and cute bartenders and ogles of potentially important people that might be like, 'Who's that crazy girl? I need a crazy girl in my film, get her number!'"
In the Rockstars, every style of storytelling is represented, from spoken word and performance monologue to stand up comedy or a more literary presentation. Ben San Del, one of the stand-up comedians in Rockstar Storytellers, says the group is unified by its collective ambition.
"Our slogan is 'we rock stories, we rock them hard,'" he said. "So it's kind of bringing that youthful, edgy attitude to what is considered maybe more of a stodgy form of performance."
San Del is referring somewhat delicately to a stereotype that's become attached to storytellers: that of an overly earnest, annoyingly sincere hippie trying to better the world.
To Ward Rubrecht, City Pages editorial and web assistant, Rockstar Storytellers are running in the opposite direction. "There's no doubt that they're trying to move away from that stereotype, and whether or not that stereotype is actually accurate, I think it is interesting to watch them move away from it," he said.
Rubrecht, who's seen the Rockstars four times, says storytelling audiences can be pretty fickle. He thinks the advantage these performers have is their numbers.
"With the Rockstars, they pretty much encompass the entire range of different styles and subject matter and everything, all in one group," he said. "So if go to one of their shows you're fairly guaranteed to enjoy at least some of the tellers."
Maybe you'll enjoy the philosophical Rockstar, Allegra Lingo, recorded here on one of the group's CDs.
"Every parent thinks their child is nothing short of miraculous," reads Lingo. "They dote, they coddle, they buy the latest hip clothing in miniature sizes. They attach an iPod to the kid's pocket filled with Mozart, Bach and Tchaikovsky. Each moment away from home is a learning opportunity. There's no time to play neighborhood games when there are art classes, music classes, dance classes, museums, science camp, math tutors and Latin to be learned."
Modern parenthood probably won't be on the agenda when the Rockstar Storytellers gather at the Bryant Lake Bowl this Sunday night.
All year long they've been exploring different literary genres in a season that's been labeled "Bookshelf." This time they'll be crafting stories based on their experiences with science fiction and fantasy books.