In a time where public discourse is less and less civil, Spoken Toledo— the Ohio Theatre’s quarterly storytelling series— could not be timelier with its upcoming event: “Don’t Be a Jerk.”
The event, Thursday, March 9 at the Ohio Theatre on Lagrange Street, will see individuals from around the community take to the stage and share stories about being nice. Similar in structure to “The Moth,” a nationwide storytelling series, anyone who attends and volunteers gets the chance to speak.
Chosen and chance
“It’s both chosen and chance storytellers,” said Phillip L. Kaplan, the M.C./host of the event. “People are given a theme, they have an allotted time, between four and five minutes. Mainly it’s a way of sharing stories in order to bring people who are in the community together, who might not know what other kinds of stories are out there, what other kinds of people are doing in their community.”
The event is nominally a competition, with judges and prizes awarded, but the true goal of the event is to inspire communication within the Toledo community.
“The Arts Commission, looking to develop programs at the Ohio Theatre, had some funding and wanted to bring storytelling to Toledo,” Kaplan said of the first event, held in early 2015.
A release of a night
Since its launch, “Spoken” has become a quarterly tradition at the Ohio Theatre, with each event loosely organized around a theme. “Don’t Be a Jerk” will be Kaplan’s third event as M.C.— his previous two centered on “What makes someplace home?” and “Parenting: Two-Legged and Otherwise.”
“The parenting theme night, the Thursday after the Tuesday election, was a really great evening for all the people who attended. Everybody felt together in this space, as these totally disparate people shared this common thing. “
Giving people from around the area the chance to share in each other’s experiences is what makes “Spoken” a truly special event, Kaplan said.
“’Spoken’ is actually a place where that’s still a beacon: We are having civil discourse. We are stopping and listening to each other, and allowing truths and experiences to wash over us, ” he said.
“Anybody can participate, or, if they choose to be an observer, they can do that, too. I don’t think you get this kind of reverence for the emotional capacity of your neighbors, people that you don’t even know [are] your neighbors.”
“Spoken: Don’t Be a Jerk” will be held at the Ohio Theatre on Lagrange Street on Thursday, March 9 at 7 pm. General admission tickets cost $8, and the event will be preceded by a cocktail hour. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit ohiotheatretoledo.org.