Genne and I [Queer Memoir co-founder Genne Murphy] have been trying to figure out what has made Queer Memoir so popular. Queer Memoir evolved in a city where EVERYONE. IS. ALWAYS. LOOKING.FOR.THE.NEXT.BIG. EXCITING. THING:
“Look, it’s a bear doing burlesque juggling cupcakes covered in glitter with a spoken sorry music video starring a Laverne and Shirley drag duo playing in an all harp band.”
Yet, Queer Memoir is about one person standing alone on a stage (mostly without a stage present) and saying “I have a story I’d like to tell” and people come out, in droves, and stay out, and put up with our temperamental venue heating and sitting on horrible five buck bucket chairs from Ikea (not to discourage you, we do actually have regular seats as well). Perhaps it’s because while we Respect The Glitter, we are not glittery, not at all.
What has evolved over these past two and a half years is an event with certain characteristics we’ve started calling the Queer Memoir Traditions. We’ll probably add to this over time, but for right now they are…
#1. We always start the show with “welcome storytellers.” Sometimes we try and do it in unison (when Genne’s in town, that is) and sometimes we say it one at a time. Stage awkwardness aside, we start begin each event this way because we want to remind the audience that truly, we are all storytellers.
#2 We introduce each storyteller by first name only. Because we want to hear a range of voices, we don’t discriminate against the Well Connected And Well Accomplished Queers, but everyone gets the same intro. “And now, we’ll hear from [insert first name here] After storytellers share, we encourage them to tell us all about their latest project, book, show, pet or whatever it is they’d like the audience to know about.
#3 We don’t do “trigger warnings.” We don’t ask our performers to give any kind of special advance notice about the content of their stories. Our performers share first person, true stories in other words, stuff that really happened to them. Sometimes these are intense, sad, scary and sometimes they’re funny and oftentimes they’re both. Sometimes these stories can make those of us listening uncomfortable and we think that’s AWESOME because it’s at the edge of discomfort that healing and change can happen.
As for a story itself serving as an actual clinical trigger of a post traumatic experience, we are assuming that folks who attend Queer Memoir are adults in charge of their own emotional health. We encourage stepping out of the venue if things become overwhelming and there are always folks present to talk with afterwords if you need support.
#4. We trust our audiences to support our storytellers. Just say “I’m nervous” and you’ll see what we mean! (edited July 2017 to add: we recently found out that our friend Bevin Branlandingham borrowed this “I’m nervous (they say awkward) ” + participant applause for her Fat Kid Dance Party video that has over a million hits!).
#5. Queer Memoir is cheap and, if possible, free. Most of our events are 5-10 bucks sliding scale to cover expenses, but no one is ever turned away for lack of funds. Sometimes when we have a collaboration with another arts org, we don’t have this flexibility, but if you want to come and don’t have the cash, always email us. We’ll make something happen.
#6. Queer Memoir doesn’t happen in a bar.
#7. Queer Memoir is an event of deep honesty. That doesn’t mean you’ll always hear dramatic or traumatic stories, although sometimes that might be the case. It just means you’ll be hearing people sharing just a level or two deeper than they normally might and that the audience supports our storytellers in this. And it almost always means you’ll be actually LOLing at some point, since humans seem to be funnier the more honest they are!