Tales of Our Lives Returns to the Stage April 28-29

What is it about a good story that causes us to lean in a little closer, to let our minds weave ourselves into the narrative we are being told? 

It turns out, it’s science. 

Storytelling has a way of making connections – literally and scientifically. Studies have shown that when two people engage in storytelling, the listener’s brain-wave patterns eventually begin to mimic those of the storyteller as the listener lets her or his mind be transported into the story. 

On April 28 and 29, audience members can experience the power of storytelling for themselves when Tales of Our Lives, an annual fundraiser for the Door County Women’s Fund, returns. Inspired by the open-mic storytelling competitions of The Moth, based in New York City, Tales of Our Lives invites a pre-selected group of area residents (typically seven to nine women and one man) to take the stage to share a story from their life. 

“Unlike The Moth, we never do a theme,” explained Nikki Hedeen, one of the event’s organizers. 

In fact, “slammers” – a nickname for the storytellers – are given numerous weeks after being selected before they must choose and submit their story topic to event organizers. 

“Sometimes they have an idea of what they might share when we ask them if they want to be a slammer,” Hedeen said, “but until that first six weeks is up, we don’t have any idea what they are going to talk about. The stories that evening run the gamut.” 

How story slammers choose their topic varies as well. 

Sara Krouse of Algoma, for example, spent some time reflecting on various moments that had shaped her life. 

“I think at first, it’s easy to start to think about the big events,” she said. “But it also helps to take a step back and think about the little interactions. We all have these little moments in our life that we can touch on. It doesn’t have to be earth shattering.” 

It just has to be relatable. 

“I think there are universal themes, but it also needs to be personal as well,” said Jim Pionkoski, another of the event’s story slammers. “The audience isn’t there to hear a lecture.”
Instead, audience members are there to be entertained, but also to see a bit of themselves in the stories they hear. Sometimes that connection happens through the words of the stories, but at other times, it’s simply in watching people such as Pionkoski take on the challenge of public storytelling. 

“I used to have a very difficult time with public speaking,” he said, admitting that he has struggled with social anxiety his entire life.

He eventually overcame his fear of public speaking – which he credits largely to a career in advertising and the many presentations he had to give – but this will be his first “official” storytelling event. 

“I think part of the appeal with storytelling is that the audience sees other people like them who can do this,” Pionkoski said. “How many times when you are listening to or going to a story slam do most of those people getting up on stage say, ‘I don’t normally do this, but I have to tell you this.’ So they are seeing themselves in whoever is presenting.”

And although the event is sure to spin a few good tales, it is also very much about creating those community connections. 

“What happens in that room during the stories is incredibly special,” Hedeen said. “To see this person get up on stage and tell a very intimate story – whether it is lighthearted or heavyhearted – it changes you.”

The evening’s other story slammers include Priscilla Dias Hill, Nancy Rafal and Jamie Sheehy, with music provided by Jess Holland and Dorothy Scott. 

This storytelling event is not intended for children. A social hour at 6 pm will precede both shows, with storytelling beginning at 7 pm. New this year, an hors d’oeuvres buffet (in place of the dessert bar) is included in the ticket price. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door, but they tend to sell out. Register online at or by phone at the Door County Community Foundation at 920.746.1786.