Storytelling in Los Angeles

A Conversation with Lindsay Kavet

Last month a group of us from the Unlocking Your Story workshop field-tripped it to the Expressing Motherhood show in Silver Lake. We opted to forgo the LA traffic and traveled limo-style... It was so much fun and the show was fantastic!

So fantastic that I'm featuring an interview with Lindsay Kavet—an amazing mom, writer and the creator of Expressing Motherhood, which is now in its 10th year! The good news is that the Los Angeles show has been extended into June—see full details below!


Lindsay Kavet

Lindsay Kavet is a mother, writer and creator of the spoken word series Expressing Motherhood. She has three kids and created the show as a means to be creative and also meet fellow creative moms.

Since 2008, Expressing Motherhood has given women (and a few men) a platform to share their experiences with the wondrous world of mothering. Whether it be on stage, locally or nationally, in small groups in someone's living room or online, Expressing Motherhood celebrates the creative outlet of spoken word, written word and video as a way to communicate the effects of motherhood on all of us.

Listen to the podcast here!

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Karin Gutman: Tell us how Expressing Motherhood came into being?

Lindsay Kavet: Expressing Motherhood was co-created in 2008. I called up fellow stay-at-home-mom Jessica Cribbs and said, what if we put on a play about motherhood? She was along for the ride and so it was born. I really wanted to take a writing class through UCLA extensions but there's no way I could stay up that late—the class started at 7pm, meaning I'd be home and asleep around 10:30pm. My child was one-and-a-half and with no nanny or family, I needed to do something that worked for my new mom life.

Do you consider yourself a writer? If so, do you share your own stories about being a mother? And what kinds of stories do you tell? 

I do consider myself a writer. I have written for multiple publications over the years since becoming a mother. I used to blog about my kids but stopped in 2008 once the show was launched. I felt an urge to have some privacy. I began writing again publicly about a parent who is an addict and mentally ill three years ago when I cut them off. It was a scary feeling but ultimately fulfilling. I write a little about my kids but want to protect them. When they grow up they can write about me. I will share a few funny things they say and I have shared their inquiries into why we don't see their grandparents anymore. Driving around LA we see so many homeless so the issue of drug/alcohol abuse and mental illness is a weekly discussion and it has offered a 'way in' to ease the truth of our family situation. I felt passionate about sharing about that as I held it in as a secret for about 37 years.

How has Expressing Motherhood grown over the years?

I took the show to NYC within a year of its conception and it sold out, off-off-Broadway, but as I told my kids, “Hey, that's close enough to make me happy!” The show has been to cities all across the nation, from Boston, Sioux Falls, South Dakota to Tacoma, Washington. The show was actually snowballing the first few years and I had two more babies so I made the decision to keep it at a sustainable level. My own mental health could not parent well under too much additional stress so it was a little heart wrenching to not see it catapult into something bigger. But, I was so fulfilled with the stage show and enjoyed it and reminded myself that is why I started it in the first place. Now, that my kids are older, I'm pushing it again. I am now putting the shows up on our podcast as well.

As someone who used to produce a spoken word series, I’m curious about how you approach casting the line-up for your shows? What kinds of stories do you look for?

I look for stories that are specific. I don't want broad, “motherhood is hard” pieces. I cast people off of their story via email. I never even meet the person until our one and only rehearsal. I believe in the power of their story. A lot of people have never performed before.

Do you work with the writers in developing and shaping the stories?

Absolutely! Curating the pieces for the stage and the show is something I always do. Some shows I make intentions to carve out more time so I can help a piece that needs more direction than others to get it ready for the show. Some shows I simply don't have as much time so I cast more polished pieces. But with most pieces, I nip and tuck it to make the show shine. 

How did you decide to start producing in other cities? How do you choose the locations? 

Selfishly, I thought a trip to NYC with my friends would be great fun so I took the play there. There was a demand for the show and I wanted to get it there. I obviously couldn't be jetting off to multiple cities at a time with three kids under five so I would take it to a new city about once a year. I didn't want to franchise the show for a few years—too many variables. It was important to me to make sure the quality was right. A few years ago I started having local producers bring it to their communities. They're either women who have been in the show or seen the show multiple times. Fortunately, it's worked very well.

What challenges have you encountered?

Diversity! That's been a challenge. I try to get it but it is a challenge. I even reach out to different groups and have gone to meetings where I'm one of the few white women, because I'm just trying to get more women of color to submit. I am very happy that the cast we have going on right now in Silver Lake is our most diverse cast ever.

What are some of the recurring themes and nuggets of wisdom that you have gleaned about motherhood over the years?

I marvel at the bravery many of these women have had to conjure up and I doubt my own ability to have it, should the moment arise. But, at least I have their phone number now! 

Have you ever thought of publishing an anthology of stories? Or even writing your own narrative about motherhood that incorporates various stories from the show?

I have thought about both! I started to work on an anthology about four years ago but again was swept into mom life. I only have so much time I can spend working on the show and I found working the book to take up a lot of time and not feel that fulfilling. Again, my kids are now older so I now have more time than I have had in a long time. 

What are the details for the upcoming LA show and where can we buy tickets?

I extended the most recent Silver Lake show you can see it June 5 or June 12, 7pm Silver Lake at The Lyric Hyperion. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased here.

I have some people asking… when is the next call for submissions for an LA show?

I don't have a Fall show set up just quite yet, but people can join our mailing list and/or follow us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram. Thank you!

What are the first THREE WORDS that come to mind when you think about Motherhood?

Oh God.

That's honestly what popped up, only two but loud and clear.

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Upcoming Expressing Motherhood shows in Los Angeles!

Tuesday, June 5th and 12th
7-9 pm


Lyric Hyperion Theatre
2106 Hyperion Avenue
Silver Lake

Buy tickets

See a list of on-going spoken word venues in Los Angeles

 

 

To learn more about Expressing Motherhood, visit the website.

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A Conversation with Kathy Katims

The lovely Kathy Katims, has launched a new storytelling series, Saved by a Story, which she hosts at her home in Pacific Palisades. With each evening, 100% of the proceeds go to a nonprofit whose mission empowers voices that often go unheard. She is currently accepting submissions for the February 24th show (the theme is GREEN) and tickets are now on sale via the website. Read more in our interview below about how storytelling inspires her and the kinds of stories she is looking for!


Kathleen Katims is a candidate for an MFA in Creative Writing at Antioch University. She writes fiction and creative non-fiction. Her work has been published in Verdad Magazine, The Penman Review, Switchback and Lunch Ticket. She is working on a book called Second Acts, interviewing, researching and writing about people who had interesting journeys out of being stuck and moved in the direction of their dreams.

She is founder of Saved by a Story, a storytelling salon with a purpose–to share stories, build community, and to do social good in the world. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her awesome husband, two kids and big brown dog.

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Karin: What inspired you to create Saved by a Story?

Kathy Katims: There were a couple of reasons as to why I wanted to bring people together to tell stories, build community and help others (at SBAS salon, 100% of the proceeds from admissions go to an organization that is helping underserved communities to tell their story).

One reason I created SBAS was that I was trying to think of ways to build community among writers. I am a writer, and it can be lonely. I thought coming together to share stories and working on a project with other people would be a rich experience.

Secondly, I have been feeling a mix of helplessness and outrage since November 2016. I was hoping such a simple thing as to listen to each other’s stories and to donate would be one way to foster peace, empathy and empowerment.

Lastly, I love reading, writing and listening to stories. So I thought to invite an eclectic group of people to come together to share stories on a theme would be so much fun. To me, there is nothing better. 

I love the name, “Saved by a Story.” What does that mean to you? Have you been ‘saved by story’?

I had a writing class many years ago and the teacher used to bring in great quotes to inspire writing. I looked for the exact quote now to see who said it, but I can’t find it. I remembered it as, “Sometimes a great story can save your life.”

I loved that quote. As a writer, it bolstered my feeling that writing and telling stories was important. 

But as a person, that quote really resonated for me too. There have been so many times when hearing or reading someone’s story has grounded me, lit the way, infused me with hope and helped me along my path. 

An example that comes to mind is when my first child was diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder at two and a half. 

On the car ride back from the meeting with the developmental pediatrician, after I’d gotten the news, I also (probably no coincidence) got the flu. I went to bed on a Friday, but between the flu and the terrifying worries, I had a hard time getting out of bed that weekend. I worried would my son ever talk? Would he look me in the eyes? Would he go to school? Would I ever be able to connect with him? Would he fall in love? Get married? It felt like someone had blown a hole open in my chest.

I had a book on my nightstand from a friend titled, “Let Me Hear Your Voice,” by Catherine Maurice. In the night, at one of my darkest moments, I started to read. Maurice wrote about her journey learning that her son had autism, how she felt, what she did and how she found help for him.

Her story was a roadmap. It was a reflection of how I was feeling. It was insight into how my son might be feeling. It was hope and direction for me. 

Through her story I could see that with intervention, her son got more communicative and connected and was able to go to school and make friends and be out in the world. Through her story, I felt understood and comforted. I remember the book ends with the boy and his brother having a conversation about dinosaurs, something I didn’t know could be possible, that she hadn’t known would be possible at the beginning of the book. With intervention, this boy’s trajectory was an incredible upward spiral. It gave me the idea that my son’s story, our story, could be like that. 

That story literally got me out of bed, ignited me to get busy and infused me with hope and purpose. So maybe it didn’t save my life literally, but it patched me up, straightened me up and sent me back out int he world to embrace my life. 

How lovely that you’re opening up your home. Storytelling is such a personal, intimate sharing, and to have a space that supports that can only enhance the evening. Do you agree?

I do. It is special to be in a home. It’s different than a theater in that it creates more of a party atmosphere and encourages people to connect during the breaks. 

When the salon first started we had 50. Now we have a 150, so I have started to think about finding spaces outside of my home. I do plan to keep it intimate, but also want to factor in having more impact to raise money for non-profits. I am exploring spaces where we would still have a party atmosphere and are not as formal as a theater, but where we could maybe have 200 people gather. 

You are forwarding the proceeds to great causes. How did that idea come about? What kinds of organizations do you like to support?

I was inspired by a friend who has an art show in her home and often will take a percentage of what the show earns and donate it to a local nonprofit. She loves art and uses it to help others.

I love and believe in stories and writing, and thought I could use the art of storytelling to help others.

I also have been at so many fundraising events that are not fun. SBAS is a rich, soulful evening that also does good in the world. That felt like a winning combination.

I love to support organizations that are empowering the voices of people we don’t usually hear from. So far we have supported at-risk girls in Los Angeles to learn creative writing from professional women writers. We’ve supported a therapeutic preschool for kids with special needs who are struggling with delayed language and we’ve supported a non-profit that is helping incarcerated people to get their Bachelor’s degree. 

The GREEN event is supporting a wonderful non-profit, Film2Future, that is teaching the poorest high school kids in Los Angeles to express themselves by making films and helping them to gain access to jobs in the entertainment industry.

What kinds of stories are you interested in? Is the evening devoted to personal narrative or do you also include fiction, poetry, etc.?

The stories at SBAS are mostly personal narrative written for the evening’s theme, though I have included a poet and some music in each of the evenings. In all cases though, people are telling something true about their life. 

Many of the stories are up on the website www.savedbyastory.com if people want to hear samples. The stories when read are a maximum of ten minutes long (5 double space pages or less), but can be shorter.

I know that you currently have an open call for submissions for the February 24th show GREEN. What kinds of “takes” would excite you?

I try to pick themes that storytellers can come at from different perspectives. When I thought of GREEN, I thought those stories can include the idea of being new at something, getting the go ahead to do something, being jealous, or stories about conservation or gardens. I’d love to include an immigration story about a green card. I’d love also to be surprised by a perspective I hadn’t thought of. 

Are you looking for polished pieces, or do you work with the writers to help shape and craft the pieces?

Most people submit polished pieces though I have helped people shape stories that I loved but I felt needed another pass or two. I’ve done this especially when I wanted to make sure to include a person’s unique perspective in the evening. For example, a writer who was also an Afghanistan war veteran submitted a story for the ENOUGH salon. It was excellent and I really wanted to include that perspective, but his story just needed another pass to get closer to his experience and let us in a little more. He did two more passes on that story, and it turned out to be one of the most powerful stories in all of our evenings so far. 

Can you give people a sense of what the format of the evening is like?

There is a warming in period where you can get a drink and a bite for a half an hour. Then I welcome everybody. The nonprofit that we are supporting presents their organization for about 5-7 minutes.

There are eight stories on the theme with a 15-minute intermission. I ask writers to read their work out loud at home before they submit to make sure their story is 10 minutes or less. 

I also try to include some music in the evening. For GREEN we are lucky enough to have two wonderful musical acts performing.

How often will you be doing these evenings? Can you share any upcoming dates or themes?

This year we will be doing three to four events. The next event will be in late spring and the date will be announced at the salon and on the website.

The theme of the next event is ICE.

Given that you are also a writer, I’m wondering if we’ll get to hear some of your stories, too?

I got to tell a story at the FIRSTS salon and do hope to read another again soon. I was nervous, but it was exhilarating and I’d love to read again. It was also a rich experience to write to the theme.

The last salon I had 22 submissions and 8 spots so I only want to include my story if it works well with of all the other stories.

What do you hope people who attend Saved by a Story will come away with?

For people who are coming to listen, I hope they’ll enjoy the stories. I hope they laugh or are moved or empathize or connect to someone’s narrative. I hope they hear a story that broadens, delights and surprises them.

For readers/writers and storytellers, I hope that it is a rich, soulful experience to share their story. So many of the people who have told stories told me that they loved the experience.

I hope people will feel part of a community.

I hope too that these nonprofits that are doing such important work will be embraced by people at the salon and that their community is broadened as well. I hope people will support by donating, but also consider other ways they can bring their particular skills or resources to bear. 

Come to listen. Come to share. Come to help others. Just come.
 

 

To learn more, visit: www.savedbyastory.com

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A Conversation with Larry Dean Harris

As summer closes, we can find inspiration from the breathtaking boldness of the recent ECLIPSE to dive wholeheartedly into our creative work.

You might start by checking out Larry Dean Harris's STRONG WORDS storytelling series in Silver Lake, and perhaps throw your name into the hat. Read more about what he looks for in a story in our conversation below! 


LARRY DEAN HARRIS is a New York Outer Critics Circle Award nominated playwright living in Los Angeles. As a storyteller, he's performed in Sit N Spin at the Comedy Central Stage, Tongue & Groove at the Hotel Café, Spark Off Rose in Santa Monica and Write Club at the Bootleg Theatre. He recently teamed with singer-songwriter bestie Sally Fingerett to create Pen Pals, an evening of music and stories. Harris is the creator and co-curator of Strong Words, the long-running Silverlake/Atwater arts event. He proudly hails from Toledo, Ohio, where he created the long-running musical comedy revue “Oh, No! Not Toledo!”

Larry Dean Harris

Strong Words began in Silver Lake when three writers - all members of Body Builders Gym - came together to share their stories in a public forum. The salon-style event grew to include music and visual art fostering a spirit of community. Admission is always free, and programming is limited to 80 minutes to allow for open dialogue after the performance. After four successful years in Silver Lake, Strong Words moved to nearby Atwater Village in 2016 in a glorious new outdoor venue at the St. Francis Center. Strong Words was recently selected to open the 2018 season of the Los Angeles Public Library's “LA Made” series at the Mark Taper Auditorium.

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Karin: Tell me about Strong Words and how it began...

Larry Dean Harris: About six years ago, three writers at the legendary Body Builders Gym in Silver Lake banded together to read their work aloud in front of friends and family. Something clicked, and Strong Words was born.

I love that three body builders had stories they were burning to share. What was the first story you shared on the stage that first night? 

I told two stories that night, but “Confessions of a Calvin Klein Underwear Model” was, by far, the favorite. Here in Silver Lake, we don't blush easily.

With so many other storytelling venues out there, do you have a sense of what makes Strong Words unique? 

Initially, it was our Silver Lake location. When I began as a storyteller, I was performing at Spark and Sit N Spin and having a ball. But we didn't have a show like that in our neighborhood. But now, I think it's our fearless audience. They embrace everything I throw at them with open ears. We opened our last show with a sound bath, and they loved it!

After producing Spark Off Rose for 13 years, it is clear to me that live storytelling and personal narrative is more than a trend, it's a bona fide movement. Why do you think people are drawn to it? What's this movement all about it? Why now?  

We live in a swipe-left/swipe-right world now of instant everything. I think a good storytelling show gives us a chance to breathe, to laugh and cry and absorb new ideas in real time.

What kinds of stories do you look for when putting together a show? 

I love the truth naked and unabashed. I love an economical story with lots of beats, laughs and a surprise or three. But I'm also a sucker for craft, when the writing is so delicious, the audience is swept away.

Do you work with the writers on editing their pieces or are the pieces submitted ready to perform?    

Occasionally, I will help a first-time storyteller with a few notes, like “Your story really doesn't get started until the third paragraph,” but otherwise I give free rein. I do insist on reading the stories in advance to program a well-balanced show with a good arc.

You say that your evenings grew to include music and visual art. In what way? 

Well, there are stories told with words, but there are also stories told with song and with images. So it seemed like an organic way to expand our community of artists. I have this amazing co-curator, Michael Hirabayashi, who has a discriminating eye for both art and photography. He was on a film shoot with a young actor, Joseph Lee, who was painting these fresh, super-compelling portraits on scraps of wood. Michael encouraged him to share his work at Strong Words, and that was his very first show. Now he's getting sizable commissions.

I love the “open dialogue” component after the performance. At Spark it was such an important piece of cultivating community - that idea of continuing the conversation that was started on stage. What have you noticed? 

I think a long show fatigues the audience. I try to keep our show tight - less than 80 minutes - because people do like to linger, have another glass of wine and just engage with like-minded individuals. It's my favorite part of the evening.

What do you do as your day job -- and how does storytelling and producing this event figure into your world? 

I'm a Mad Man. Storytelling is nothing new in the advertising world. I can spin a whole story in 60 seconds and still mention the product by name five times.

What are your dreams and aspirations for Strong Words and yourself as a creative artist and writer? 

Personally, I'm happy right here right now. I love that whenever I have a new story I don't have to wait. I have an audience ready to be rocked. But for Strong Words, I'd like to expand our reach. We're starting to do that, partnering with the Los Angeles Public Library. We're opening the 2018 LA MADE season playing the big room at the main branch downtown in February.

How do people go about submitting to you? Do you have specific guidelines?  

First, I insist they attend a Strong Words show, so they understand the dynamic. For stories, I have three simple rules: Must be TRUE. Must be YOU (your story told in the first person). Must be 1,350 words or less. I haven't met a story that couldn't benefit from some ruthless editing. Writers fight me on it, but afterward, they always thank me (and then grab a lock of my hair to make a voodoo doll).

 

To learn more about Larry Dean Harris, visit the Strong Words website.

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