Frequently Asked Questions

Are you interested in performing at The Narrators, or are you already set to perform at the upcoming show? Here are a few answers to commonly asked questions:

What is The Narrators?

The Narrators is a storytelling show that features people telling true stories based on a monthly theme. We believe that true stories can be just as profound and powerful as masterworks of fiction. Storytelling can bring people together, foster empathy, combat isolation and loneliness, and have a genuine therapeutic benefit for both the storyteller and the audience.

We are not an open mic, although we often feature new storytellers. We are not a standup comedy show, although we often feature comedians. We are not an open “reading” event for essayists and professional speakers, but those folks sometimes tell stories too. We are not a competition, although we do care about the quality of our storytellers’ performances.

When? Where?

Our regular monthly shows take place on the third Wednesday of each month at Buntport Theater in Denver, Colorado and the second Tuesday of each month at Tiger! Tiger! Tavern in San Diego, California. If you don’t live in Denver or San Diego, we have a weekly podcast that shares selected stories from our live shows. We also host special events several times per year at a variety of locations. For more info, check out our Events page or find us on Facebook.

Is the show kid-friendly?

The answer to that question is a tricky one, and is really up for you to decide. Our regular monthly shows are open to all ages but are usually best suited for a mature audience. We don’t restrict our storytellers, which means that you might hear stories addressing serious topics (death, substance abuse, sexuality, etc.) communicated in very frank (and sometimes sharp) language. Beer and wine are available at both shows and our audiences are largely composed of drinking adults. We have seen teens in the audience and some pre-teens (always with their parents, of course), but it’s admittedly a rarity. There are stories told at almost every show that would require a follow-up discussion between kids and parents.

In addition to our regular monthly show, we occasionally host special events that are targeted to kids and families, so please check our website or Facebook page to see if we have anything coming up that’s meant for a younger audience.

How do I get on the show?

We have limited spaces available each month and those spots go quickly—our shows often fill up several months in advance. We hope to curate a monthly lineup of storytellers and stories that are diverse and interesting, or offer an unexpected, original perspective on the monthly theme. The process for getting on the show is simple, just like a real conversation:

1. Listen. We recommend that you attend our shows and/or spend some time listening to the podcast, introduce yourself to our hosts and storytellers, become familiar with the format, feel and philosophy of our shows. While it is not a prerequisite, becoming an engaged member of our community greatly increases your odds of being selected for a future show.

2. Ask questions. Once you feel that you understand how our show works, please contact us via Facebook or email, so we can keep track of your request. Please do not send your full story or a lengthy pitch—just ask if we have space available and please let us know how you were introduced to the show. If you want to tell a story but don’t have a specific theme in mind, that’s great too. If you’re on the fence about telling a story and have any questions for us, ask away!

3. Wait your turn. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that space will be available on the show you request, even if you’ve already written the story. Our shows often book several months in advance. If you are polite and understanding, we will almost always try to find space for you on a different month. Jerks need not apply.

What do you look for in storytellers?

We’re always looking for new people, and the number one thing we’re looking for is genuine interest. The show really isn’t egocentric; it’s only as strong as the quality of the stories told during the show. If you’re iffy about your own interest, maybe watch a few of the shows until you feel ready. The more genuinely interested a person is in telling a story, the more likely it is that they will come prepared to perform.

You do not need to be a professional writer or performer to participate. We love writers, actors, comedians, musicians and other people who identify as artists but we also encourage those who do not normally do this kind of thing to get involved. The Narrators is committed to representing multiple voices and experiences and creating a safer space for all of us to be ourselves. We very much want to hear from people of color, queer people, people living with disabilities, immigrants to the U.S., military veterans, the very old and the very young…you get the idea.

Does my story have to be totally true?

Yes, unless the fictitious parts are clearly fictitious, such as humorous alternate situations. A true story is far more interesting (on our show) than one that is embellished as you try and beef up its entertainment value. Also, human beings are innately attuned to bullshit, and even if you’re a convincing liar, the crowd will probably sniff that something is amiss.

Do I have to stick to the theme?

We encourage our storytellers to be creative with their interpretations of the assigned theme, beyond the obvious, and strict adherence to the theme is one of the least important aspects of a story. We would rather hear a great story that somewhat fits than a mediocre story that ties strictly to the theme. The theme is just a starting point; at every show we have funny stories and sad stories, and they range from on-theme to barely relevant. Some of the most successful stories tend to surprise folks—defy the audience’s expectations for that particular theme—and create connections that they didn’t expect.

Can I read my story?

Yes, you’re welcome to print your story and read it aloud, or refer to notes. Whatever makes you most comfortable. Some folks avoid paper to hide their shaking hands (or myopia), whereas reading is the best option for others. Whatever you choose, we strongly encourage you to practice reading your story out loud several times before jumping on stage—with or without notes, it can be easy to lose your place once you’re in the heat of the moment.

How long should my story be?

Because we like to have a variety of storytellers, and the perfect length for a show is around 90 minutes, we ask people to limit their story to 10 minutes or less. WE CANNOT OVER-STRESS THIS POINT. If you have limited speaking experience, you may not know what 10 minutes of speaking feels like. Practice your story out loud and time it. Generally when people speak on stage, their inherent nervousness will make them speak somewhat faster. So if you time your story at 10 minutes at home, odds are it’ll be perfect at the live show.

If you’re reading your story, the general rule is 100 words=1 minute of speaking. It’s important to stick to your time because when you go over it’s unfair to the performers who are going after you, and unfair to the audience, some of whom might want to see the entire show but have to leave when it runs late. It could be that you feel that your story needs 14 minutes to get it all in. We’d be hard pressed to argue with you on that point but one of the things that makes this show work is that it is short and sweet—on a weeknight, this ensures that all of the working stiffs can come out. Our shows are frequently crowded, too, and many people sit on the floor for the duration of the show. If you back everything up it drags down everybody’s enjoyment factor. We ask that you be considerate of everyone in the room; they will extend that same courtesy. WE CANNOT OVER-STRESS THIS POINT. Going over your time will make it unlikely that you will be invited back to the show, and unlikely that your story will be chosen for the podcast.

What makes a great story?

We don’t purport to have any grand expertise about what makes a story good. We have noticed that some ingredients tend to be more successful than others—having empathy for your listeners, recounting extraordinary circumstances (or common-but-unspoken experiences), avoiding blatant bigotry—but after six years and more than 500 stories shared, folks still surprise us all the time.
Thanks to the immense popularity of shows like The Moth and This American Life, many new storytellers feel compelled to imitate that particular style of storytelling. By contrast, we try to avoid exerting editorial or aesthetic control over our performers. Instead, we strive to create a safe, non-competitive environment where a broad array of stories and styles can be heard.
We implicitly trust in our performers’ ability to tell stories about themselves. Every single time we assemble a group of storytellers and an audience, one truth stands out—there are all kinds of different ways to tell a story. Each person has their own, told in their own style and voice, and that chorus of unique voices is what makes the show beautiful. We’ve seen people stumble through the delivery of a story and still convey a truth that was powerful enough to transcend their “performance.” We have seen storytellers who don’t speak to any strong truth but charm the pants off of the audience. We like that too. As the show’s producers, we listen every month—just like the audience—and and our storytellers TELL US what makes a story good, often in ways we couldn’t imagine.

How do I get on the podcast?

The podcast episodes are an abbreviated sampling of the live show. We usually choose less than half of the stories from the live show for use on the podcast. Instead of looking for the ‘best’ stories, we look at stories that would make for a well-rounded episode. Don’t concentrate on ‘making the podcast’, just tell your story as best as you can. Even if you tell an amazing story it could still be passed on for any number of reasons.

Do I get paid?

Boy do we ever wish we could pay you, but it’s a free event—and right now our mission is to serve as a community gathering place, where we can come together to share in the trials and tribulations of our lives in a way that makes us feel less alone in the world. We believe storytelling is an important act and an important thing to share. We hope you agree.

PERFORMER AGREEMENT:

The Narrators records all storyteller performances for potential publication and distribution, in part or whole, across a variety of networks, platforms and media formats.

You, the storyteller, agree to perform without financial compensation. The Narrators owns all rights to our recording of this performance and any edited versions created from our recording. You keep full rights to your original composition and the right to perform, record, publish and sell your composition in the future to other publications and platforms.

If we publish our recording of your story, you are welcome to use our published version in your personal portfolio and download a copy for personal use. Because we have agreements in place with our networks and sponsors, you may not publish or sell our recordings without prior permission. If you would like to sell or republish any part of our recording, do not hesitate to ask!

If you do NOT want your performance published, simply let us know. No response within 48 hours after your performance will be construed as acceptance of this agreement.

Andy’s public speaking tips:

  • Relax! Our show is graced with one of the most patient, attentive audiences I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen literally thousands of audiences. You’re in good hands and everyone is on your side.
  • Speak right into the mic. Get right up on top of the mic and show it who’s boss. It’s natural for a nervous person to shy away from the mic; you don’t want everyone to hear you! Wrong. You’re on stage and you definitely want everyone to hear you. If you think you’re being too loud – you aren’t.
  • Take it easy on the sauce. It’s natural to want to medicate your nerves with a beer or four before performing, but in my experience nerves are a good thing, simply an indicator that the body is about to do something awesome. Why dull down this natural response by getting plowed? Ever hear someone get wasted at a party and try to tell a story? Yeah, it sucks.
  • Breathe. This is a storytelling show, nothing more. The best story comes naturally, as you know it. We’re all hanging out, trading stories, and you happen to have a story that relates to what someone just said. This is just like that. Take your time and enjoy it.
  • If you are worried about remembering details of your story, organize them with some simple bullet points. If you really want to write up your story and read it, become familiar enough with it so that you can read it naturally, and remember to look up often! Those little flashes of eye contact keep the crowd engaged with you.
  • It’s okay to cry if your story makes you sad. I’ve set the record for crying at this show. Don’t be ashamed of real emotions, they’re at the heart of every truly great story.

2 Responses

  1. Tiara Chapman
    Tiara Chapman at |

    I’ve fallen instantly in love with this performance! I would like to attend the live show on August 20th. I am from Texas and this would be my first time in Denver. Do I need to reserve a seat or purchase tickets? If it is first come first served, should I arrive an hour early?

    Reply

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