Storytelling series may become the poetry slams of the twenty-tweens—ubiquitous pop-lit entertainment—but for now the form's popularity continues to rise, with Back Fence PDX packing most shows and a touring production of New York's the Moth selling out almost immediately. Diving into the mix this week are Back Fence alum Jeff Hardison and local author/filmmaker Riley Parker, with a new show called Blather. Parker took a few minutes to answer my questions.
MERCURY: How is Blather structured?
RILEY PARKER: The show is all unrehearsed true stories, so we will just be telling them as they come to us. We will start the evening with a hat full of ideas, flip a coin, and the winner will pull out a slip of paper and tell a story that relates to that topic.
How is it different than other storytelling series in town?
We're just going about it in a different way. All of the storytellers are on stage together, drinking and laughing and egging each other on, because we're all friends and this is how we tell each other stories. Jeff and I realized from hanging out together that we always tell better stories when we're telling them at the bar. When we go to a bar with friends there is no theme, no emotional chord we're expected to strike, so we just talk to each other, keeping each other entertained, trying to outdo the speaker before us. We're out to drink too much and tell embarrassing stories.
Why did you decide to do a show together?
Jeff and I met in competition, at the Literary Death Match of 2009, and we instantly dug what the other person was doing. We are both competitive in a friendly way, we both find humor in dark places, and we both dislike a lot of the same stuff, which gives us a lot to complain about and bond over. It's our goal to make a show that we would be entertained by. We're taking the show seriously, but we don't take ourselves all that seriously. We'll be there to have fun.
Any hints as to the subject matters that might be discussed?
We have yet to write down the topics that will go into the hat, but we'll probably mention, at some point throughout the night: ex-girlfriends, childhood, religion, the South, college (why one of us went and the other one didn't), theft, cousins, celebrity, fisticuffs, clothes from the '90s, and pets.