By Megan Hicks, Sharing the Fire Workshop Presenter
By cheap, I don’t mean chintzy; I mean inexpensive.
That’s the approach my husband and I take about the Rose Valley Storytelling House Concerts we host monthly. We just put concert #13 to bed, and I’m sending out emails for #14. After that, we have talent lined up for #15, #16, #17, #18, and #19. That takes us into summer, when we break for a couple of months.
I didn’t think the idea would fly when, two years ago, Rivka Willick told me we should do ghost stories in my living room. It started with me wingeing about a dearth of adult gigs, the absence of places to test drive new material, the frustration of having to cut twenty-minute stories down to fit a 7-minute olio performance slot. Rivka said we should create such a gig. A mid-winter offering of “Stories for a Dark and Stormy Night.” She designed a flyer. We posted it on social media, and my husband printed them out and took a bunch with him to work and to his twice-weekly volleyball games. I figured we’d be lucky if a couple of neighbors and my in-laws showed up.
Imagine my surprise: Twenty-three people came. Two neighbors and two in-laws, who might have felt a sense of obligation, and nineteen people who were there because they wanted to be.
With the exception of my in-laws, who have been to my gigs, and the neighbors, who are related to a storyteller, none of our audience had ever experienced this form of spoken word entertainment. At the end of the evening, before I had a chance to thank them personally, they thanked me effusively and made sure I had their contact information so they’d know about the next one, whenever we happened to get around to doing it again.
We started off planning these house concerts about once every three or four months. Then, since people kept showing up and tellers kept saying yes when I invited them, we decided to do it every couple of months. And soon, we were monthly. Our audiences range from 25-40 people, and they are consistent — consistently we see an even mix of 1) Brand New People who are guests of 2) the Regulars or 3) the Occasionals. The mailing list has grown from the original 25 names we collected at that first concert to well over a hundred, and growing.
For the overwhelming majority of these people, a Rose Valley Storytelling House Concert was their first exposure to storytelling performance. Now they know that storytelling is a Thing, and some of them are searching out other storytelling venues whenever they travel. Which makes me happy and proud. But what I think is most important is that these house concerts provide people a chance to go out and be in the company of people they don’t necessarily know but do absolutely feel comfortable hanging out with. Nobody has to worry about keeping up their end of a conversation; there’s a set agenda — the evening’s entertainment. At intermission and after the entertainment, when it’s time to refill the glasses and make sure I don’t have any bothersome leftovers to put away, everybody present has a shared experience to talk about.
This sweet success isn’t just happening in Rose Valley, Pennsylvania. Wherever people host storytelling house concerts, they talk about the sweet time, the pleasure involved, connections made, friendships strengthened.
In this time of re-discovering that small is beautiful, as we choose to shop with Mom and Pop instead of the Big Box at the Mall, in an environment where micro-breweries flourish and Community Supported Agriculture is a concept that needs no explanation, I consider our house concerts to be “the CSA of storytelling.”
If you don’t want anybody to think you’re cheap, think of it as Artisanal Entertainment.
Want to learn how to produce your own house concerts? On Saturday, April 2 at Sharing the Fire 2016 Megan Hicks, Loren Niemi, and Robin Bady will be presenting their workshop Bringing Down the House – A DIY Guide to Storytelling Concerts in Your Home — and they may even produce a “hotel room concert” as well for your enjoyment. Visit the Sharing the Fire pages on this website to find out more about the workshop and to register for the conference!
Have House Party tips you’d like to share? Leave a comment.