October 3, 2019 | By Cindy Stovall
Story Days in Tampa Bay
Your Real Stories Celebrates 6 Years of Theatrical Journalism
I think it’s fair to say that, as humans, one of our common experiences is a love of stories — hearing them, telling them, acting them, writing them, singing them, dancing them. Whatever format, however unconventional, stories find a way to be told and creative minds find a way to make them fresh and compelling.
Such is the key to the success of Your Real Stories. Eight years ago, co-founders Dr. Lillian Dunlap and Jaye Sheldon began to define what they term “theatrical journalism,” a form of telling true life stories in artistic ways.
“Our model of theatrical journalism is unique,” explains Dr. Dunlap. “The original model had us conducting interviews, developing scripts and then presenting the scripts professionally onstage. The idea was to then introduce the real person to the audience and have a discussion incorporating diverse perspectives and feedback.”
Sheldon adds, “It’s a way to get people talking across difference.” They both agree that, “Always, we stand on a foundation of excellence in journalism.”
“First and foremost, you must listen,” says Dunlap. “When you listen, that’s when trust develops, and people really open up.”
“We give them all the time and space they need to tell their stories,” says Sheldon.
Utilizing a detailed interview process during the journalism phase, words are then molded and carefully crafted into scripts. Photography and video are often integrated into the overall presentation. The theatre phase takes over as the scripts and visuals are developed and the genre in which they are presented is determined.
Two years ago, YRS found a studio home at the ArtsXchange in the Warehouse Arts District. “We love being part of a family of over 40 resident artists,” says Sheldon. “The increased foot traffic daily and on Second Saturday ArtWalks raises our visibility tremendously.”
A year-round event takes place at the Your Real Stories studio every fourth Tuesday of the month. Off the Wall tells a story based on the photo archives that grace the studio walls. One photo a month comes “off the wall” and the accompanying story is told to a live audience.
So… a scripted story may be read onstage by a seasoned local actor or choreographed and danced by a professional dancer. Perhaps a poem tells the story best — or maybe a song. Short films or curated photographs are frequently utilized. The point is that every conceivable artform is considered when it comes to bringing a scripted story to life.
That is how Story Days in Tampa Bay came to be. Six years ago, Dunlap and Sheldon decided that a weeklong themed festival would be the perfect format to showcase many stories, in many ways, in many places. This year’s theme is one that is as universal as storytelling – Love & Relationships.
“I don’t remember how it even came up,” says Dunlap, “but the more we talked about it, the more we realized we had our theme.”
“It’s really an honor to be trusted to tell these stories,” says Sheldon.
Highlights of Story Days in Tampa Bay
. . .
Tuesday October 8 – Marriage Stories
Your Real Stories presents an evening of professional theatre and conversation, based upon interviews with nationally acclaimed journalists Susan Green and Robin Phillips, authors of The Marriage Battle: A Family Tradition. Sponsored by the Florida Humanities Council. Free, starts at 7 pm.
Wednesday, October 9 – Story Days Short Film Screening
At the Dalí Museum, curated by Your Real Stories and the Tampa Bay Times – featuring documentary shorts and selections from Everyday Tampa Bay, followed by a panel discussion with the filmmakers and award-winning photojournalists of the Tampa Bay Times. Free, starts at 6:30 pm.
Thursday, October 10 – Stories, Poetry, Motion and More
At the Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg, Your Real Stories presents an evening exploring Love and Relationships through the languages of song, dance, theatre, poetry and comedy. With Helen Hansen French, Gloria Muñoz, Marquese McFerguson and more. Free, starts at 6 pm.
Friday October 11 – Satchmo & St. Pete: A Love Story
The story of Louis Armstrong’s daughter and stories of the St. Pete residents whose lives were impacted by Satchmo’s legacy. An evening of live theatre, music and dance at the Historic Manhattan Casino, where Armstrong played on tours of St. Pete. Based on interviews with Louis Armstrong’s daughter, her mother, and St. Pete residents who saw Armstrong perform on both sides of Central Ave. Event includes red carpet, dancers and a jazz combo. Tickets $35, reception at 6:30 pm, performance at 8 pm.
Saturday, October 12 – Second Saturday ArtWalk and Closing Reception
Celebrating the festival finale at the Your Real Stories Studio. A wine and cheese party with conversation about the week’s happenings makes for a perfect end to Story Days in Tampa Bay. Free, starts at 5 pm.
Details and and ticket information
are at yourrealstories.org
An audio interview with Lillian Dunlap
and Jaye Sheldon aired on the Beauty
& The ‘Burg podcast. You can listen here.
[Full disclosure: Cindy Stovall
is the host of Beauty & The ‘Burg.]