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Americans want to feel connected. And comforted. And they want to feel united, even as we’re all #StayHome.
So, the Storytellers Project is launching a series of national virtual storytelling nights as part of the USA TODAY Network’s response to the novel coronavirus. This live show will air on network websites and social channels, including Storytellers Project's YouTube channel and Facebook page, at 5 p.m. PDT/8 p.m. EDT on Thursday, April 2.
Organizers hand-picked the best stories from more than 1,000 to be told live. Five Americans from across the country will tell a true story that affirms our most deeply held values – hope, perseverance, compassion and love. They will tell their stories from their homes.
The first show is about love in all its forms, and will be on the Storytellers Project YouTube page.
“Feeling connected to community, and creating empathy and understanding is vital in times of uncertainty,” said Megan Finnerty, Storytellers Project founder and senior director. “And lifting up our most important, universally held values through storytelling is our full-time mission. Our whole hearts are in this project and this special live show.”
Kyle Mitchell, 34, of Phoenix is one of the tellers for the first episode of Storytellers Project Live. He is a veteran Army Ranger and routinely tells stories as part of his job as an educator and member of the Navajo tribe.
“We are all in this together and need to remember that, and if sharing a story will help in any way, then that's the least I can do,” he said.
“With a majority of our world constantly checking news outlets and social media for updates on the virus, it would be great to reconnect on a simpler humanistic level,” he said. “Storytelling is the oral tradition that got our ancestors through troublesome times and, once again, storytelling will get us through this.”
Pastor Lindsey Braun, 36, of Des Moines, Iowa, is eager to connect with people.
“It's easy to get scared and discouraged,” she said. “And when we're stressed, it's hard to imagine creative ways through this challenge. If sharing my story brings a smile or laughter to someone else, or helps them exercise their own imagination, how can I not?”
Since 2016, the Storytellers Project has curated and hosted more than 325 nights of true, first-person stories in more than 20 cities. These nights are not talks, lectures or discussions. They are stories told as front-porch visit, filled with intimacy, vulnerability and authenticity. Everyday Americans, and some celebs, tell stories in under 10 minutes with a focus on being entertaining.
The Storytellers Project typically hosts more than 100 nights of live storytelling each year in venues like Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden, Des Moines’ Hoyt Sherman Place and Louisville’s Muhammad Ali Center. But all shows have been suspended through mid-May, following CDC recommendations to limit large group gatherings.
“I feel so very strongly that we are all in this together and that we will get through this together,” Braun said.
The lineup: Storytellers Project on April 2
Liz Warren, 66, of Phoenix is a fourth-generation Arizonan and the founder and director of the South Mountain Community College’s Storytelling Institute. She will share a funny story about how her grandmother offered to pay for her to attend the graduate school of her choice, if she left her new live-in boyfriend, Mark Goldstein. Warren turns down the offer, and marries Goldstein, and eventually, after much grandstanding, her grandmother relents.
Parul Agrawal, 39, of Chandler, Arizona, plans to share the story of her parents setting her up in an arranged marriage in India, in which she meets and marries a man, and moves to the United States in just days. It’s a romantic story about how her husband supports her work as a scientist, an author and how she has built a home with him.
Michelle Rogers, 51, of Ventura, California, will talk about the moment she learned her boyfriend’s sister needed a donated kidney. Rogers encouraged her boyfriend to go through the testing process to see if he’s a match and holds his hand through it by also getting tested. Then she ends up being the only match and she has to decide whether she will help. Rogers is national manager of the Storytellers Project.
Braun’s story is about dating as a young pastor in rural America. Men in small towns know everything about her, and so do the church ladies. When Braun moves to the city, options open for her dating life, but she must figure out how to square her profession with her personal life. A slew of dates leads to The One, but it turns out he's the son of a dedicated congregant. Braun must decide if she's willing to open her personal life to her congregation.
Mitchell will tell a story about how his grandfather showed him love by teaching him how to navigate without a map by using Polaris. Mitchell’s grandfather once got his platoon out of a combat zone by navigating using the star and his hands. Mitchell did the same thing while serving in Afghanistan. And then he taught this skill to his son and nephews.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Storytellers Project, amid coronavirus, to host April 2 virtual event