BY CARMEN SIERING
It’s as old as human culture — people sharing tales of love and loss, sadness and joy. In Bloomington, the tradition continues in the form of Storyzilla Story Show, a once-a-month evening of storytelling directed and produced by Nell Weatherwax. Every story is from the teller’s life — Storyzilla’s tagline is “Live true stories told well” — and Weatherwax says the emphasis on “keeping it real” is why it works.
The stories are told without notes and the tellers are coached right up to the moment they take the stage. This isn’t an improvisational story slam. “People tell me they are moved by the authenticity and transparency and deep truths shared on stage,” Weatherwax says. “Nobody gets up there needing therapy.”
Storyzilla couldn’t happen without a committed cadre of volunteers. In fact, the project might never have gotten off the ground without the encouragement of Assistant Producer and Sound Manager Scott Myers. “He’s really why I decided to do it,” Weatherwax says. “He’s my co-visionary. Without him saying he would help me with the back end so I can focus on the artistic stuff, I wouldn’t have self-produced a show again.” Other team members include Visual Arts Director Danielle Bruce, who creates costumes and sets; “door ’zillas,” who greet guests; and celebrity tellers such as Carrie Newcomer and Arbutus Cunningham. “It takes everyone to pull this off,” Weatherwax says.
Weatherwax has been a performance artist since the ’70s when she was best known as a rather iconoclastic Bloomington mime. “I wouldn’t stop talking,” she acknowledges. She moved to California in the ’90s, studied storytelling, and has been performing solo shows for more than a decade. She returned to Bloomington in 2001 and began teaching other tellers.
Storyzilla was born, she says, from her desire to combine all the things she loves — true stories, coaching, and performance. Storyzilla evenings are full of musical interludes, games, and the chance for one audience member to tell her or his own story. “By creating a show and vibe geared to bring out the best in everyone, Storyzilla aims to build a community of storytelling,” says Weatherwax. “When you come to Storyzilla, you’re not just part of the audience, you’re part of a community.” For more information, visit storyzillastoryshow.com or find it on Facebook.