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Storytelling Event ‘Let’s Just Say’ Puts Vulnerability at Center Stage


Stories. As human beings, we cling to them. They form our worldview and how we relate to one another. We love hearing stories and we love telling them. But, what drives someone to seek out stories? More importantly, what drives someone to tell their story?

With so many artists and creatives in Metro Detroit, there’s no shortage of good stories being told. Through storytelling events like The Moth, The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers and Go Comedy!’s Let’s Just Say, audiences get a glimpse into another person’s life and, sometimes, a glimpse into their own. But, what compels someone to open up to a group of strangers, usually for the sake of entertainment?

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“There’s an intimacy to storytelling nights that isn’t there with other types of performing that I’ve done,” curator of Let’s Just Say at Go Comedy! Improv Theater Amy Oprean said. “One requirement for Let’s Just Say is that you tell a true story from your life. So you’ve got this person on stage just opening up to everyone else in the room.”

Let’s Just Say was started by Shelby Kittleson, former sales and promotions representative at Go Comedy! The first event was held shortly before Kittleson moved to California. She had posted a call on Facebook for storytellers. Oprean, having experience in improv but not storytelling, jumped at the opportunity.

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Shelby Kittleson, original curator of Let’s Just Say. Photo credit: Jessica Loria.

“So, it was just this one-off event, and it went super well, everyone had great stories, and there was a great energy in the room,” Oprean said.

A few weeks following the first edition of Let’s Just Say, Go Comedy! co-owner PJ Jacokes told Oprean they’d like to continue the event and make it a monthly occurrence at the Ferndale theater. Oh, and they want Oprean to host it.

“…to which I said hell yes,” Oprean said.

But what exactly goes into planning a storytelling event like Let’s Just Say? Oprean says the first thing she does is pick a theme for the night, which can be almost anything.

“In general, I am drawn to things that sound like they’ll instigate juicy stories,” Oprean said.

Once a theme has been decided, Oprean goes about finding her storytellers, which usually amount to about 10 people. People can contact her directly or through Go Comedy! (letsjustsaystorytellers@gmail.com). In selecting the night’s storytellers, Oprean tries to make half of the group non-Go Comedy! regular performers to promote a diverse lineup.

“So for example, I was at a protest this summer that had a really amazing speaker, and I asked her to do the show and she was one of the September storytellers,” Oprean said. “I kind of consider it a little personal project I’m always working on, like, if I see someone who is in the middle of telling a great story, I’ll just say, ‘Hey! you should come on my storytelling show!’”

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Storytellers from July’s Let’s Just Say event pose for a group photo.

The storytellers let her know what their story is going to be about so that she can start putting a lineup together so one story flows nicely to the next. As the event draws closer, Oprean works with storytellers, providing feedback on their stories.

But, Oprean isn’t just curating the event. As the host, she opens the show with a story of her own to get things started and that means doing the prep work to have a story ready when the proverbial curtain rises.

The next Let’s Just Say event is scheduled for October 19 at 8 p.m. at Go Comedy! Improv Theater in Ferndale and the theme will be “disguises.”

“I saw a writing prompt somewhere that was something like ‘the masks we wear’ or ‘hiding in plain sight.’ I thought it was a great theme to have for October…Pretending to be someone you’re not, or someone else revealing themselves to be someone completely different than you thought they were; these are some pretty common situations that happen to people over the course of their lives.”

Here are some of the things storytellers have talked about so far at Let’s Just Say’s first two shows: dropping out of college, struggling with an eating disorder, someone making peace with their parents’ divorce, dealing with catcalls and the difficult feelings that come with them, immigrating to America and a drunken fallout between roommates.

“The only thing these stories have in common is this pretty vague theme that you can do anything with,” Oprean said. “It’s a starting point that people take in every possible direction.”

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