Bay Area sweethearts, creators and co-hosts of Porchlight, Beth Lisick and Arline Klatte have been known to track down bounty hunters for the sake of their show, which features true, personal stories told in ten minutes or less by members of every imaginable vocation. No surprise, then, that the roster of names that have told their stories as part of the series represents a wide range of the interesting people that make San Francisco and the Bay Area such a special place. This Friday, July 15, Porchlight will celebrate its ninth anniversary with a special show, themed "Disorderly Conduct: 9 Years of Bad Behavior," at the Verdi Club.
The bounty hunter is just one example. Equally interesting is the ex-crack addict who runs an Oakland taquería on his bicycle. Or the YA author who's been on a Disney tour, and blogged about it. Part of the success of the show has been the dynamic of the hosting duo; despite coming from different backgrounds, the two share a passion for interesting stories. No matter where they are, Beth and Arline always have an ear open for the story that just has to be shared, and for this reason Porchlight has been a great way for the two to keep meeting new people. Indeed, after nine full years of shows, the series is a strong reminder to the rest of us that each new person we meet is a potential trove of stories waiting to be told.
Since the only stipulation for participation at a Porchlight event is personal experience and the ability to relay it, Beth and Arline have been able to expand into other communities through partnerships with other organizations, like the SF International Film Fest and Creativity Explored. They also teach a storytelling class as part of the Intersection for the Arts' literary program, which provides yet another way to meet new storytellers.
"People are always different and people come from totally different backgrounds," says Lisick. "And audience members really like to be in an audience of people [about] who they're like, 'Who in the world is that?'" It is exciting to be in an audience whose performers are representatives of the audience. I know this firsthand because of Porchlight.
After only 2 or 3 months in the Bay Area, I ended up at the Hemlock Tavern for one of the first episodes of Open Door, a monthly open mic version of Porchlight. Beth and Arline were walking up to each person, with a clipboard and a roll of drink tickets. "You people are the show," said Klatte, urging us to sign up. Despite a $50 reward for the best story (awarded by someone in the audience without affiliation to any of the tellers), there were only two people signed up. At that point, there was no show -- just people ready for one. So despite not really having a story that fit the theme, and my lack of experience telling a story -- without notes (to a roomful of strangers), I signed up. As did a number of other people, I suppose, who had not planned on telling a story that evening.
But the show was great fun, and we heard some really excellent stories. They were real experiences by real people -- not some plotted-out fiction -- and this is what made the night, and what makes the Porchlight storytelling series, so exciting. Porchlight is that rare kind of production that shows us, on a fundamental level, what it is to be human -- both as an individual and as part of a community; that we are the stories we can tell; that we can transcend who we are, at least momentarily, by experiencing what someone else has experienced. Ultimately, this is Porchlight's gift to us: that we make it routine to appreciate the people around us, and ourselves through the people around us, to a greater extent than we otherwise would.
The anniversary shows are showcases for some of each year's best storytellers. This month's show, in true Porchlight fashion, will feature a few local veterans: poet Ali Liebegott, funnyman/music journalist Paul Myers, barista/comedian Anna Seregina, and Kasper Hauser's James Reichmuth; a friend who happens to be in town: comic, actor and playwright Scott Capuro; and something of a wild card: Dominic Riley, who is Mary Roach's British bookbinding cousin -- the ladies met Dominic while at dinner with Mary and were so enamored they insisted he do the show.
In addition to the stories, there will be music by the Lee Vilensky Trio and Joshua Raoul Brody, and food for sale by Vesta Flatbread.
Porchlight: Disorderly Conduct: 9 Years of Bad Behavior is Friday, July 15, 2011, 8pm at the Verdi Club, 2424 Mariposa Street in San Francisco. For more information visit porchlightsf.com. The event is $15, and tickets can be purchased in advance at brownpapertickets.com.