Making a connection with stories

5 local people will share personal stories at first-time event Friday

MARSHALL – Everyone has a story to tell, and a group of people will get their chance to spin their personal yarns at a first-of-its-kind event Friday.

Marshall Area Story Tellers (MAST) is a new group in Marshall, founded by Julie and Ben Walker. Friday’s storytelling event will be the first live show in Marshall, with five storytellers sharing their stories, including Julie Walker, who will tell of her family’s trials and tribulations of moving into a new house. The nomadic couple has been together for six years and have moved five times.

“We just moved into a new house Saturday, and it’s kind of been a long process,” said Julie Walker, who works as an instructor of communication at SMSU, is secretary of the Literacy Volunteer Board and helps with the SMSU forensics team as an assistant director. “We moved to Marshall in 2013 into a two-bedroom, one-bathroom with a family of three, then we had twins and found out that was pretty small for our family. After a host of different things, people getting sick, having three kids under the age of 3 our water heater started on fire. It was kind of a series of ‘I-can’t-believe-this-is-actually-happening’ events.”

Putting their personal spin on life in front of an audience is a concept the Walkers got from The Moth, a community showcase that features people sharing life stories.

The theme of the evening is “Beginnings,” so many of the stories will tie into the theme of the beginning of something that happened in the story teller’s life, Julie Walker said. Stories begin at 6 p.m. from Charter Hall 201 at Southwest Minnesota State University.

“There’s something so provocative and colorful about storytelling and sharing a piece of yourself with other people,” Julie Walker said. “Who doesn’t like hearing a good story and sharing a good story? We wanted to create a platform where we can share stories with one another.”

Besides Julie Walker, Friday’s storytelling lineup includes:

Russ Berreth (of Marshall Radio) sharing a story about becoming a dad in “Front Seat Confidential.”

Megan Pratt (student at SMSU) sharing a story about the pranks she and her son used to play on each other, and about how now that he’s passed away she “Can’t Get Him Back.”

Larry Montello (community member) sharing a story about his “Hitchhiking Odyssey” in the 1970s where he hitchhiked over 20,000 miles across the United States and Canada in an attempt to learn more about the hippie counter-culture and the High Life.

Rick Herder (SMSU faculty) sharing a story about learning a profound life lesson from an illiterate man addicted to heroin.

Friday’s stories run the gamut of life events, and all bring something special to the stage.

“Our goal was to find some balance – they can’t all be funny,” Julie Walker said. “But there’s always an element of humor to everybody’s start – that element of humor can draw you into a story.”

Julie Walker hopes Friday’s event is a springboard to more community speaking engagements – maybe at a coffee house, or at a library, or a bar, with the possibility of customizing them to specific areas like religion, where stories could be told in churches.

“We’d love to see them happen in schools, too,” she said.

The MAST performance, which will be recorded and available online, is being funded by a grant from the Communication and Theatre Association of Minnesota and the SMSU Forensics team. More information is available at MAST’S Facebook page: facebook.com/marshallareastorytellers. MAST is also on Twitter (@MASTstories ) and has a website: www.themast.org, which will contain the link uses can click on to view the performances. Fore more information or for questions, email julie.walker@smsu.edu.

Friday’s showcase is free, and refreshments will be served.