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Story days: When history gets real

Bill DeYoung

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Louis Armstrong (1901-1971)

Not to be confused with Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days,” Story Days is a multi-day “storytelling festival” combining film screenings, lectures and discussions, visual art, dance, music, poetry and more, starting Oct. 8 at various locations in St. Petersburg. The official title is Story Days in Tampa Bay.

According to the nonprofit’s stated mission, the events are presented “because we believe storytelling has the power to transform communities and change lives.” Your Real Stories was co-founded by Jaye Sheldon, a composer, playwright and musician, and longtime journalist Lillian Dunlap.

They call their series “telling stories of the shared human experience,” and the 2019 version, Oct. 8-12, is only the latest chapter in their ongoing and open-ended narrative.

“There’s only one story,” Dunlap has said, “and that’s the human story. And each of us has a piece of it. And every time we can connect with another piece, we understand ourselves better. And we understand that other person better.”

Things get an early start this week, with a Sept. 24 edition of Off the Wall, which Your Real Stories does as a monthly series at the Arts Xchange. A script has been prepared, written from the oral history of a person or persons from the area with a significant story to tell. Each is represented by a photo in the Off the Your Real Stories gallery – which is, literally, taken off the wall for the presentation.

Roxanne Fay

Tuesday’s Off the Wall is the story of St. Pete residents Candi and Dolores Purdue, who recently celebrated 26 years together. They were first interviewed at the St. Petersburg Courthouse on Jan. 6, 2015 – the day that same-sex marriage was legally recognized in Florida:

We work at a company where it’s ok to be gay.  We have a gay pride committee and there were domestic partner benefits for us even before we were legally married.  But there are people who have worked there for 30 years and they still don’t come out and say that they’re gay, and it’s kind of sad. They are afraid of how people will act towards them.

The performer – the reader, the interpreter – is the supremely skilled Roxanne Fay, an actress whose frequent appearances at freeFall, Jobsite and the other pro spots in Tampa Bay always elevate the production at hand to another level. Fay’s continuing dramatic works with the Dali Museum are always fascinating stuff.

Tickets for the Tuesday Off the Wall are available here.

On to Story Days proper. Here are the events, with links for details and tickets:

Of particular interest is Satchmo & St. Pete – A Love Story, Friday, Oct. 11 at the Historic Manhattan Casino, 642 22nd Street S. The great Louis Armstrong, in his heyday, performed in our fair city – on both sides of Central Avenue. His band tore it up at the Coliseum, for a primarily (but not exclusively) white audience; he also gigged further south at the Manhattan Casino, where a primarily (but not exclusively) black audience danced the night away. So great was Satch’s magnetism, so strong his appeal, he could play for anyone in those divided times – and anyone (plus everyone) would have a great time.

Were there differences in his shows, and how did he feel about them? This Story Days program is based on interviews with Armstrong’s daughter, her mother, and St. Pete residents who witnessed the gigs. This truly historical event also features a live jazz combo, professional dancers, greetings from local dignitaries and more. There’s also a VIP reception if you feel like paying a little more.

Details and tickets here.

Tuesday, Oct. 8: A presentation based on interviews with journalists Susan Green and Robin Phillips (authors of The Marriage Battle: A Family Tradition), along with Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith and her spouse, Andrea, and several Florida couples representing various perspectives on marriage equality. Marriage Stories, 7 p.m. at the Arts Xchange (515 22nd Street S., is free (registration begins at 6:30).

Thursday, Oct. 10: Poet Gloria Muñoz, dancer Helen Hansen French and others will explore the theme of “Love & Relationships” through difference disciplines in a free 6 p.m. event at the Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg.

An hour earlier (at 5 p.m.) at the MFA, Marquese McFerguson presents Love is Like … Reimagining the Stories We Write About Our Relationships, a storytelling workshop centered around the lyrics of songwriters Stevie Wonder and Bill Withers. “We creatively follow in the footsteps of these musical icons as we rethink the ways we can create poetry about the often talked about topic of love.”

Tickets are $15 here; registration begins at 4:30.

Wednesday, Oct. 9: Short Film Screening at the Dali Museum, a Tampa Bay Times-sponsored event (6:30 p.m. start time) with documentary shorts and selections from Everyday Tampa Bay, followed by a panel discussion with the filmmakers and Times photojournalists. Admission is free; reception and cash bar at 6.

 

 

 

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