Tales Of Their Lives

After a successful inaugural event in 2014, the Women’s Fund of Door County will once again bring the powerful real-life stories of local residents to the stage with “Tales Of Our Lives – A Story Slam: Empowerment Through Performance” on March 5.

With a lineup of seven women and one man, the event will build off the positive reception it received during last year’s sold-out event. Dubbed a story slam, in which select individuals from Door County share funny, sad, heartwarming or heart-wrenching stories of their lives, the event is about more than storytelling – it is about empowering women (and men) of all walks of life.

The idea for “Tales Of Our Lives” was inspired by The Moth, a non-profit organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling, and its well-known StorySLAMs. These theme-based open mic storytelling competitions are held throughout the nation and encourage storyteller hopefuls to put their name in a hat. From that hat, 10 storytellers are selected and given five minutes on stage to share their story based on the night’s theme. Stories are scored and judged, and winners move onto a larger competition.

The Women’s Fund ran with the idea, replacing the competition aspect with an emphasis on sharing. An all-volunteer committee was formed for the event and is made up of Megan Lundahl, Trudy Herbst, Terry Lundahl and Nikki Hedeen.

“It really spoke to all four of us because we’re all storytellers, we’re all writers,” Megan Lundahl said. “That’s a huge component of it. Everyone is writing their own story.”

But most appealing about the story slam was its potential to reach the younger demographic that the Women’s Fund was trying to connect with. The organization was set up to benefit Door County women and girls of all ages, but some of the members began to realize that younger women didn’t seem to know about it.

Cue the story slam in the depths of winter, and its purpose became two-fold: promote the Women’s Fund of Door County, and get people out on a quiet weeknight. Last year, it did just that, selling out to an audience of more than 120 men and women.

The “Tales Of Our Lives” committee members determine the story slammers for the year. The guidelines are loose: stories should be relatable and when told, last less than 10 minutes.

“Between the four of us, we happen to know a lot of amazing women and people,” Megan Lundahl said. “People we think that would be really fantastic because they have a story to tell. People that have been in the performing arts community because they will do a really great job performing. Also, we really strive to fill a wide range of backgrounds and ages.”

This year’s featured story slammers are Melissa Andrews, Laura Beck Nielsen, Anni Lampert, Sara Oswald, Melissa Ripp Lozoff, Melanie Samonds, James Valcq and Sue Warren. The evening will also feature musical interludes by Dorothy Scott and Jess Holland.

With an age range from 16 to the mid-60s, this year’s stories will focus on everything from motherhood to taking a look back at journals from one story-slammer’s (Melissa Ripp) teen years.

“The theme of my story really has to do with feeling stuck professionally and personally in my 30s, and wanting to figure out why I feel the way I do,” Ripp said of her story. “One day I decided to read my journal from junior high school to see if it can provide me any insight. Let’s just say that I was certainly preoccupied with pretty much everything else but my future when I was 14, and I’ll be sharing some of that preoccupation with the audience.

If it sounds like a “we’ve all been there” type of story, there’s a reason.

“These are all extremely personal stories and we really coach our slammers to make them as relatable as possible because that’s what we really want,” Megan Lundahl said. “We want our guests that night to feel touched and connected. Relatable.”

Its tagline of “empowerment through performance” relates not only to the confidence and empowerment of the storytellers who will be sharing their deepest, darkest and most touching stories, but for the individuals seated in the audience.

“The empowerment portion, not just for the slammers but for the audience members, is realizing that, ‘Oh. Somebody else out there has gone through something similar to what I’ve gone through and they’ve gotten through it. I’m not alone,’” Lundahl said. “It’s the whole feeling of ‘I’m not alone.’ That is a huge mission of the Women’s Fund, even though it’s not necessarily our mission statement – that there is connectivity between all the women in our community and that we really are all working toward the same goal even though we come from different backgrounds.”

To purchase tickets, call the Door County Community Foundation at 920.746.1786 or download an online reservation form at Advance tickets are $15. Tickets at the door will be $20, space available. As last year’s event was sold out, advance ticket purchases are recommended.

All proceeds from the event support the Women’s Fund and its mission of building, enriching and nurturing the lives of Door County girls and women through “collective wisdom and philanthropy.”

Tales of Our Lives will be held Thursday, March 5 at Door County Fire Company, 38 S. 3rd Ave. in Sturgeon Bay. Social hour starts at 6:30pm and the stories will be told from 7:30 – 9pm. Complimentary baked goods from local bakeries and Door County Coffee will be served; a cash bar will be available.