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'Grown Folks Stories': A Show For All Ages

By Allison Kelley in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 21, 2014 7:00PM


Cara Brigandi, host of storytelling series Grown Folks Stories, cuts right to the chase.

“People ask if they can bring their kids to the show and I say sure, when do you want to introduce them to the real world?,” Brigandi says. She calls Grown Folks Stories her baby and the audience her people. And after six years of running the series she remains truthful to its guiding tenets: No judging. No readings. No poetry. Simply storytelling.

Thursday’s show, inside of a packed jewelry store/juice bar/art gallery on Milwaukee Avenue, was electric. People brought lawn chairs and beers to Grown Folks Stories. They set up shop early and they talked and drank and hugged old friends. As a newcomer you get the feeling that everyone knows each other but you don’t ever feel unwelcome. In fact, the storefront venue, lends itself to passerby stopping in to check out the scene. You feel like you’ve stumbled into a backyard party where the guests swap stories you want to stick around for.

Around 8 p.m, after introductions, Brigandi stood at the front of the room and pulled out the name of the first reader of the night, her brother, George. George, and the rest of the readers, would have 5 minutes to tell an off-book story about anything they wanted. George talked about his recent revelatory moment being with a woman who could not have kids and how that made him realize he wanted to have a family. He had to break it off with the woman.

There were fifteen stories told over the course of 2 hours and they ran the gamut of emotions. Storyteller Katie Prout, who admitted she had lurked around the series for a year before finally throwing her name in the bucket, told a story about a chance phone call with a veteran. She thought of her own little brother who joined the navy and the stress of not knowing if he was safe. Though the man on the other end of the phone was a stranger, a customer returning a product, Katie began to cry in her customer support cubicle.

Christian Rangel told the I’m-so-glad-that-was-you-and-not-me story about going for an STD test and mistakenly filling up the sample with semen, not urine. The audience got loud from laughter and audible screams of, “No!” Valentine Soposky shared a story about growing up in a religious community where divorce was vilified and her parents had to pretend to be together. She pulled out a pair of her keys and jangled them into the mike, imitating the sound of her terrifying dad who would announce his presence with a drawn out key jangle. This story was followed by a note from Brigandi: “1 in 4 women are victims of domestic abuse. Please, if you need a safe house, you can stay at my crib.” It’s what you would say to your loved ones, or an audience who has been with you for 6 years and who you consider family.

Just before 10 p.m., the crowd thinned out but there were still the diehards seated at the front, staying put until the last story was told. Patrick Hickey took the mike and used a benign story about losing his glasses to tell a deeper and darker story about growing up on the wrong side of the tracks. One night, blitzed out of his mind, he boarded the California Blue Line train and woke up at 4 a.m. outside, on the edges of the city.

He didn’t know how he got there but he realized he was near his childhood friend’s house. The friend had been stabbed to death at 19 years old, but his friend's mom still lived in the house and Patrick never consoled her when the murder first happened. Something that night told him he needed to get to her house to apologize and talk about the past.

With that type of tale being told, Grown Folks Stories is worth staying for.

Grown Folks Stories runs the third Thursday of every month at 8 p.m. at The Silver Room at 1442 N Milwaukee Avenue. Get there at 7:30 to grab one of the handful of provided seats or bring your own chair. BYOB.