Toledo stories: Live storytelling events, archival projects gaining ground in Glass CityWritten by Ross Lockhart | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Over the past few months, Toledo has started to open up and share its stories.
Taking cues from public radio programs and podcasts like “The Moth,” “This American Life” and StoryCorps, creative residents of Toledo have begun establishing their own live storytelling events — opportunities for people in the community to congregate, converse and connect through shared experiences.
Organizers say the aim is to gain glimpses into the lives of others, creating a unique emotional experience for storytellers and audiences alike.
Glass City Stories
Inspired by live “Moth” storytelling events she attended while living in Chicago, Glass City Stories founder Maggie Dziubek said her program is based on making storytelling fun.
“I want to keep it accessible to everyone,” Dziubek said. “People can be a part of it without having some kind of qualification as a storyteller.”
Held once a month at The Moxie on Adams Street, each Glass City Stories event is based around a theme. The inaugural Glass City Stories took place on Valentine’s Day with a theme of New Love. On March 13, the theme was Good Luck/Bad Luck and an April Fools event is set for 7 p.m. April 16.
Dziubek said the best moments are the most unexpected.
“We’re always up for spontaneous storytelling,” she said. “It’s really exciting when someone takes a leap of faith and tells a story off the cuff.”
Dziubek, a Toledo Free Press contributor, said she sees the rising popularity of storytelling as an important development for Toledo, offering new creative and social opportunities for the city.
“It’s different from your usual night out,” she said. “There’s a real sense of intimacy because it’s people sharing something about themselves. That vulnerability makes it unique.”
Spoken Toledo held its inaugural event March 12 at the Ohio Theatre and Event Center. Co-creator Ryan Bunch said he is pleased with how the evening went.
“People really opened up and got into the spirit of things,” he said. “Some of the speakers I had known for years, but hadn’t heard their stories.”
The program featured four guest speakers and six volunteers, all sharing stories loosely based on “beginnings and endings.”
Attendees were treated to stories of first heartbreak, journeys to new places and disastrous hair-dye jobs. Bunch said another edition of Spoken is in the works.
“If not this summer, definitely in the fall,” he said. “The great thing about these events is that they don’t need to be too overthought or grandiose. Keeping the focus on the people and their stories will always make it fun.”
All proceeds from Spoken go directly toward programming at the Ohio Theatre, and Bunch encourages anyone with an idea to get involved.
“We welcome any support we can get,” he said. “It’s inspiring for me to see people come together. I hope people continue to support the space so we can put on more events for the community.
Frogtown Storytelling Guild
Founded in 1994, the Frogtown Storytelling Guild is Toledo’s oldest collective of storytellers, dedicated to perfecting and preserving the ancient art of storytelling. The group meets every second Saturday at Reynolds Corners Branch of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library. Member Tari Miller said anyone interested is welcome.
“We are open to people of all walks of life,” she said. “You can come listen to our members or practice telling a story of your own.” A retired educator, Miller joined the guild in 2004 after reading a call for story enthusiasts in the paper.
“My heart dropped when I read that,” she said. “I had found a marvelous group of people that loved stories. It was exactly what I needed.”
Once a year, the guild partners with the National Storytelling Network to put on Tellabration!, a large-scale event bringing in guest storytellers from around the country. Miller said events like this keep the tradition of storytelling alive.
“Something happens when you share a story face to face,” she said. “Being able to take someone on a journey where they never expected to go. What’s more powerful than that?”
In addition to live events, creators are looking to showcase Toledo’s stories using other mediums as well. 419 Tales is an upcoming podcast series dedicated to exploring and archiving the city’s oral histories, featuring personal interviews as well as candid recordings from community happenings. Creator Silke Goudos, who was a recent finalist for a Toledo SOUP microgrant, said her goal is to inspire curiosity in the everyday.
“I’m interested in the town I live in,” she said. “We’ve got a lot going on here. I want to fight apathy toward Toledo.”
Goudos is currently running a GoFundMe campaign to fund professional audio equipment to produce the podcast, which she hopes to launch in the next two to three months. She said programs like hers will always be in demand.
“Storytelling is how we preserve history,” she said. “It’s an art form that stimulates conversation and allows us to connect with others, something that we are craving nowadays.”
Tribute to Toledoans
Utilizing moving pictures to capture the city’s stories, Tribute to Toledoans is an ongoing video series produced by Charles Boyk Law Offices. Videographer Josh Nagel said the videos are a way to highlight the positive aspects of the city and bring stories of exceptional residents before the public eye.
“When I was a kid, Toledo was the go-to place,” he said. “It’s still that go-to place. This is our way of showing what Toledo is all about.”
The short, documentary-style pieces feature interviews with people who have impacted the community in different ways. Nagel said the series has received overwhelming positive feedback, and he is proud to see the city beginning to recognize its storytellers.
“It’s getting people excited about Toledo again,” he said. “We have so many great things that we often overlook. These events change the way people feel about being Toledoans.”
With so many projects popping up at once, Toledo is quickly gaining acceptance into a much larger creative network of storytelling. Dave Sabol, founder of Cleveland-based storytelling event Told, said it’s exciting to see more cities embrace the art form. “As humans we have an innate ability to tell stories,” he said. “We are forming a community of storytellers. It’s something that won’t go away.”
Tags: 419 Tales, Charles Boyk Law Offices, Dave Sabol, Frogtown Storytelling Guild, Glass City Stories, Josh Nagel, Maggie Dziubek, Ohio Theatre, Ryan Bunch, Silke Goudos, slider, Spoken, Spoken Toledo, Tari Miller, The Moxie, Told, Toledo SOUP, Tribute to Toledoans