When Tad and I started Drunken Telegraph back in 2012, we were both at turning points in our lives. Three years, eleven shows, six workshops, three Story Snapshot booths, and more than sixty stories later, we find ourselves at another crossroads. So, we will bring our community storytelling project to a close with our final show,That’s All, Folks! Stories about Endings, Goodbyes and Moving On.
Our initial vision for Drunken Telegraph was to create a space where people could gather and share the kind of stories they usually only told on first dates, at family reunions, or to friends over drinks. If we shared those stories with strangers, we surmised, we might not feel so much like strangers anymore. At coffee houses, restaurants, bars, and a black box theatre, we have been delighted to host evenings where that exact transformation occurred. Even more, we discovered diverse and dynamic storytelling talents around Puget Sound.
As a long-time radio host and producer, I dreamed of creating a show like this. In Seattle, I loved taking part in A Guide to Visitors, Seattle’s longest-running curated personal storytelling show. Started by my former colleague at KUOW, Jeannie Yandel, AGTV showed me how fun and moving a night of real-life stories could be. Jeannie helped me figure out how to structure the show, and gave me valuable advice about keeping it running.
Tad and I were neighbors for ten years and always enjoyed sharing personal stories with each other. He was the first person I thought of to help develop the show here in Tacoma. Lucky for me, he agreed. Having grown up around stories in the rodeo scene of Eastern Washington, he had fond memories of men whiling away hours sharing their escapades. For me, storytelling was woven so deep in the cultural fabric of my North Carolina upbringing, I didn’t realize I was doing it until I moved to the Northwest.
We pored over Murray Morgan’s Puget’s Sound, looking for inspiration to name our fledging show, along with my husband (and our designer), Britton Sukys, and agreed that we all wanted to capture an old-timey appeal. We imagined townsfolk gathered around the pub fireplace, regaling their neighbors with their greatest adventures and most painful lessons. We wanted a name that evoked the character of Tacoma, as well as the tone of the storytelling. That’s when we ran across this quote from Rudyard Kipling, describing Tacoma on his visit in 1889:
“Overhead the drunken telegraph, telephone and electric-light wires tangled on tottering posts whose butts were half whittled through by the knife of the loafer.”
– from Tacoma Public LIbrary
We all raised our beers because we recognized that city. And so, “Drunken Telegraph” was born.
Having had so much fun and so many powerful performances, it’s hard to say goodbye. In fact, when it comes to stories, endings are the hardest part…and also the most critical. It’s not until the end of a story that you actually know what it all meant. So, even though we’d love to keep the party rolling, our personal paths are pulling us toward new horizons.
If movies taught us anything, it’s that you gotta know when to go.
On the bright side, we’re not in *that* movie. We’re not leaving the country, or even the city. Thankfully, we’re also not fleeing a fascist regime. Instead, we’re stepping away to be able to develop our next big dreams. And, knowing how fundamental storytelling is to both of us, you can bet we’re not done sharing the experience of true tales told in Tacoma.
So, in accepting the need for our own transformations, we looked to the great movies again to find another way to end Drunken Telegraph’s story.
Before we hop into our hot-rod Delorean and put on our gold shades (remember, Back to the Future 2 takes Marty to October 21, 2015), let’s have one more big evening of stories to remind us that the ending of one story is just the beginning of the next.