When Liam Daniel Pierce began to organize the storytelling event Bring Your Own two years ago, he imagined it would look something like the scene in Raymond Carver's short story Why Don't You Dance?, in which a man takes the contents of his home and arranges them in his front yard. There would be no stage and no microphone, just couches, lamps and people leaning forward to listen. "The idea is to have a living room outside," Pierce says. The original event was called BYOBS, or Bring Your Own Bug Spray, in a nod to insect activity during the April debut.
The winner of a BYO event gets to choose the theme for the next one, and the theme for Dec. 5 is "The Passion." Seven contestants will have seven minutes to tell their stories, and three anonymous, randomly selected judges will choose a winner, which will be broadcast on WWNO.
Pierce and partners Laine Kaplan-Levenson and Nina Feldman want to give participants as much control over the event as possible, an element that they say differentiates it from another local storytelling show, The Moth, which is held in a venue with a stage and charges participants an entry fee. At BYO, volunteers do everything from selling beer to editing audio for broadcast. Food trucks will be on hand.
The BYO team says listeners can connect with storytellers because there's no platform. "The first time we did it at Alcee Fortier Park, a lot of people happened upon it because it was in an open space," Kaplan-Levenson says. "This girl came up to me during the intermission and said, 'I cannot remember the last time I saw a group of people sitting quietly, listening to one person talk.' And it's so true! No one is on their phones. No one is even Instagramming."
People interested in participating can sign up to tell stories by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. — Jeanie Riess