photo: Julie Sadowski
A monthly storytelling series of four to five stories performed throughout the evening, blended with wine tastings and music. $10 general admission, $5 featured wine flight.
Incorporated: The 2nd Story annual festival began in 2002. The monthly series began June 2006.
When: Last Sunday of each month at Webster's Wine Bar, 1480 W. Webster. Tickets go on sale at 6 p.m., doors open at 7 p.m., and the first storyteller begins at 7:30 p.m.
Fringe benefits: Between the wine, the intimate seating and the spaced out stories it's almost impossible to end the evening without having made a few new friends. Webster's full bar and menu are available throughout the night.
Up next: September 24: Matt Miller, Kimberlee Soo, Megan Stielstra, and J. Adams Oaks
People have long paired wine with music and wine with readings, but the 2nd Story festivals blend all three, during twelve days of polished, collaborative storytelling. This summer, 2nd Story expanded to include a scaled-down monthly series, which is almost guaranteed to have you ending the night wondering, "Why didn't someone think of this before?"
Of course, the 2nd Story series probably wouldn't even exist if Webster Wine Bar weren't such a crummy theater venue. 2nd Story founder Adam Belcuore, who had worked at the wine bar for years, originally used the space to host one-man shows and small productions with Serendipity Theatre, a group he'd formed with college friends. The results were a bit mixed, but during a special kick-off event, Belcuore mixed things up by turning the spotlight on a few storytellers planted in the crowd, interspersing natural conversation with rehearsed performance. The space came to life, and while Serendipity moved on to other digs to host its plays, Webster Wine Bar has hosted 2nd Story ever since.
What's a typical reading like at 2nd Story? The flights of wine are purchased at the beginning of the night and the first taste, which the first storyteller introduces, goes down before the first story, and everyone tastes it together and then the story begins. And then 30 minutes later...another taste is dropped and that storyteller announces that wine and then goes into the story. The wine is held in reverence and the story is held in reverence and the music hooks it all together. We want to make the people that are there talk to each other. There are no TVs in this bar. It's a place to come and have conversation.
And what can the audience expect from the stories? One story is going to hit you in the gut, one's going to make you laugh, and the other two are going to do both. You listen to stories, have a sip of wine, and then turn to your friends and maybe tell them a story about something you had forgotten. If you've got strangers sitting next to you, odds are they're going to talk to you about what they just heard. 'Oh, you're talking about your first kiss? I remember my first kiss...'
Do writers submit stories or do you use a core group of storytellers? In the beginning it was like, OK, let's invite a bunch of special guests. But that sort of changed now that we're doing more of the development in-house. So now it's more of a core group; if you want to tell a story, although this isn't 100 percent, you have to become a part of our process.
How would you say this differs from a traditional reading series? This is storytelling. These stories are performed, they're told well. There are great writers that are decent-to-poor readers. But it's a thing to be able to tell a story well and have written it well and then also have collaborated with this other artist, so that the whole experience just becomes one really great story.
Do you try to pair the story with a particular wine? No, we tried to think about a way to connect the wine in that way but wine is such an individual experience and it's such an art of its own. It felt very heavy handed to say 'here's a big robust wine so I need a big robust story to go along with it.' However, we certainly do encourage people to think about the fact that wine is involved.
Is there a story that's still really memorable for you, months later? Megan Stielstra's story about the Whole Foods parking lot, I just love. Matt Miller's Sea World story to this day is one of my favorites.
Where would you like to see 2nd Story five years from now? We very much want to take 2nd Story around because it's such a great, intimate and simple thing to transport. I'd like to see film be involved, animation get involved, larger bands, more musicians.