Do you recognize these lyrics? “Everyday when you’re walking down the street, everybody that you meet has an original point of view”. If you guessed the Arthur theme song, you deserve a pat on the back and high five! Yes, Arthur, the TV show. That is one of my favorite quotes because it reminds me that everyone in the world knows something that you don’t, everyone has a story to tell, and an original point of view to share. It is author, community organizer, and story catcher Tara Pohlkotte’s Job to help YOU find these stories.
“So what is Storycatchers?”
Storycatchers is a nonprofit, story telling initiative in the Fox Cities run by Tara Pohlkotte. The mission of Storycatchers is to create community with shared storytelling through different mediums like recordings, teaching workshops, and her free live storytelling events which have been packing venues all over the Fox Cities.
The live storytelling events are Tara’s most popular and well known ways of engaging the community. I like to describe it as an adult storytelling open mic in different unique locations, like cafes, the library, museum or on stage. People come to hear unexpected everyday people tell extraordinary stories about their lives. Tara focuses on the storytelling, with a minimalist setup including a microphone and a music stand.
Tara told me. “I wanted to explore the idea of why stories have stayed around for so long and why they are so important. We tend to think of stories as something elementary, something for kids…But why is that? [It was] Then I started understanding the human need for that connection.”
These stories are not the same as the bedtime stories for kids. They are unfiltered and uncensored stories about real life. Which isn’t exactly the same as “story time” for kids. At the beginning Tara struggled with parents bringing their children to the events, especially at her first event entitled “Stories of Youth.” Here the storytellers told stories from their past (stories that may not have been the most kid-friendly). The live events are designed for a mature audience, an outlet for people who want to be heard and tell their stories.
“People ask me, ‘Can I bring my 14 year old?’ And I say, ‘It depends what kind of parent you are…These aren’t fables being told, and they aren’t everyday stories.'”
As we age more people reserve stories for children, but Tara wants to reinvent the term storytelling, and treat it as the art that it really is. However, that doesn’t mean that children aren’t allowed. Tara recounts a time where her youngest storyteller, Jonathan a brave 11-year-old told the story of his struggles with being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and what that means to him at 11 years old. At that point Johnathan’s mother hadn’t told her family about Johnathan’s mental illness, but his bravery inspired her to share her own experiences battling mental illness in her life on the same stage. That event was a very powerful moment, and it accomplished Tara’s goal.
“This is bigger than me or even the live events, this is about creating something for the community. It gives people of all ages and walks of life a chance to tell their stories.” Tara did have one last message for all of the story lovers in the Fox Cities.
“While the live events are entertaining and fun, we are just getting started unearthing the stories that we need to hear in our community… We are working on a project called ‘Voices from the Margins,’ where we are trying to identify underrepresented voice in the Fox Cities and I think our job is to hep them tell their own stories. Going and getting stories that may not come to us is what is really amazing. We may have to just sit and be quiet to listen to these stories and to find them, but they are more than worth the effort to find them.”
You can see Tara at her next 2 events, Storycatchers Live: Voices of Our Elder Caregiving Community on November 16th, and Storycatchers Live: Holidazed and Confused on December 8th. The events are free but donations are encouraged. Donations are vital for the nonprofit to keep thriving, so don’t hesitate to support the art!
Thank you for reading. Share this with that storyteller in your life! Maybe they’ll end up at the next event. RJ is a contributor writer at Venture Wisconsin. RJ is also a magician. Be sure to follow his Facebook page for his upcoming classes and events.