Every month Beth Lisick and Arline Klatte organize Porchlight, a venue for unscripted and unrehearsed storytelling. The Spark episode “First-Person Narratives” follows Lisick and Klatte as they put together an evening of testimonials at San Francisco’s Café du Nord that share the theme “I Quit.”
Both of Porchlight’s organizers have long been involved with the art of storytelling. Klatte is a widely published freelance journalist and former lifestyles editor for the “Moscow Times,” and Lisick has done performance art, written fiction and poetry, and works as a columnist for SF Gate. But Porchlight is not a venue for experienced storytellers. In an attempt to present a more spontaneous, everyday kind of tale telling, Lisick and Klatte consistently bring together groups of people who, though comfortable enough to get up on stage and speak before a full house, are not professional performers. Stories are unscripted and performers are permitted only one rehearsal in front of Porchlight organizers and fellow presenters.
Lisick and Klatte pride themselves on their commitment to selecting performers that come from varying backgrounds and experiences. And certainly, one of the greatest strengths of the Porchlight series is the broad range of people who contribute. In addition to a number of emerging local literary talents, past storytellers have included cartoonist Keith Knight, a 70-year-old mushroom hunter, a tow truck driver, a forensic scientist and formal mayoral candidate Matt Gonzalez.
Performers are encouraged to reveal as many details and feelings as possible, as Lisick and Klatte have found that audiences respond to authenticity. Lisick and Klatte also have been pleased to discover that such testimonials help to create a sense of community. In the breaks between the storyteller’s stories audience members often share their own, similar tales.