Dim blue lighting filled room 300 as students entered Eastern Michigan University’s Student Center Oct. 25 for the Storytellers Lounge, aware of the spotlight on the stage that would soon be the sight of their entertainment for the evening.
Shavonne Coleman, the host for Storytellers Lounge that evening, was the first on stage. Coleman introduced the theme for the evening, leaps and bounds, which every story would be centered around.
In general, the mood was light. Coleman discussed how all the girls wearing “summer dresses” during the warm October days would “get pneumonia up the ass,” and introduced every storyteller with his or her favorite superhero.
The first storyteller introduced was EMU freshman Christopher Tyler, whose favorite superhero is Superman. Maintaining the upbeat atmosphere, he told the story of getting a role in the musical “Hairspray.” As Tyler described himself, he said, “I have three left feet, not just two. And I was going to have to dance … in heels.”
He was going to play the part of Edna Turnblad. Tyler talked about the lady at the counter when he had to buy his first pair of heels.
“She asked, ‘Are those for your mama?’ ‘No, they’re for me’… she does the sign of the cross,” he said.
Similarly, Tyler talked about the adventures of pantyhose.
“First of all, I learned you’re supposed to wear underwear with them,” he said.
As Tyler told his story, he acted out a certain part about his balance issues and gave different facial expression to the different characters talking. Tyler ended his story with, “Sometimes you need to take leaps of faith and not be bound by limitations.”
Another comedic story was told by Joe Kuo, a senior studying information assurance. Kuo started off talking about how he looked up to his father, a Taiwanese test driver.
“Despite that handicap, he’s the best driver I’ve ever met … I wanted to be a good driver,” Kuo said.
Kuo described how he practiced driving using “Grand Theft Auto 3,” and when his car was hit by a drunk driver, the skills he learned in the game actually came in handy.
“The guy had an orange Camaro and I had a van,” Kuo said. “It was a giant van, like the kind you see robbing banks, or one you would use to kidnap children … it wasn’t a contest, but I chased him.”
Kuo specifically described coming home and telling his dad about how he chased the guy in the Camaro, and how after those leaps and bounds, “I was speaking with my dad … as an equal.”
Patrick Leonard also spoke at the event and closed the night with a story about his experience in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Core. Leonard described one particular time when he was invited to a camp to repel down a building.
“I was thinking camp. Then, he issued me a uniform and we woke up at 4:30 in the morning,” he said.
Out of the whole story, the line that seemed to stick out the most was, “I’m 14, and I’m wearing a harness, and I made it,” after which Leonard pretended to throw a bunch of ropes together and tie them into a harness.
While the three male storytellers told humorous stories, the two women storytellers did not. EMU professor Heather Neff’s story was much deeper and told more like a narrator of a book than a person recalling a memory. Neff told a story about facing her fears as an African-American woman when moving to a primarily Caucasian Switzerland with her new husband.
Neff talked about how as a child, her family had moved to a Caucasian neighborhood with the intention of “fucking the suburbs up.” However this had the effect of forcing Neff to grow up isolated. When she and her husband moved to his homeland of Switzerland, she described how the general population seemed to view her.
“They thought I was a terrorist before we even knew what the word was,” she said.
During the story, Neff came to a point where she described what she called a near-death experience. “I remembered those five seconds felt like five years … I was at peace with the fact I was going to die.”
Similar to the depth and grimness of Neff’s story was Kylah Thompson’s story on how she came to grips with being molested as a child. While the piece didn’t sound as practiced as Neff’s, it carried an honesty that left the room silent.
On Nov. 9 at 9 p.m. there will be another Storytellers Lounge in the Student Center, room 300, on surprises. Students are welcome to sign up to share their stories.
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