MONTREAL – Like children settling down for story time at the local library, a respectful silence washes over the crowd of grown-ups who give their undivided attention to the storyteller on the stage before them. With a voice wavering ever so slightly, the storyteller begins to impart her tale. After her initial jitters subside, she settles in and begins making eye contact with audience members and lets the story tell itself. Every once in a while she stops and smiles, delighted that people are laughing and clapping at just the right moment, and then silent once more, she continues.
Dedicated to giving a platform to Montreal storytellers, Confabulation is a monthly showcase of true-life stories performed without notes or props in front of a live audience. After nearly two years, Confabulation has featured more than 120 10- to 12-minute stories as told by a wide range of Montrealers. Tales touch on such diverse themes as childhood, family, war, travel, lessons learned and experiences of transformation and rebirth, with the intention of gaining (and sharing) a greater understanding of ourselves.
“I really fell in love with the idea of these really honest, earnest stories being told by anyone and everyone,” says Confabulation founder and host Matt Goldberg.
“Coming from the comedy world,” he says he found “it was such a breath of fresh air and it was so different from what I was doing, but at the same time totally in line with my interests.”
Goldberg, an English teacher at Vanier College and member of Montreal improv group Uncalled For, began Confabulation as a way to help ignite our innate passion to share our stories. Modelled after The Moth, the critically acclaimed live storytelling series in New York City, Confabulation started out at The Freestanding Room and has since held court on various stages around the city, including MainLine Theatre and Le Grand Bayou Café-Bar. And audiences have been eating it up.
“Right from the get-go. the response has been really amazing,” Goldberg says. Up to 50 audience members have been turning out for the event, filling all the seats in the recently opened Shift Space on St. Antoine St., directly opposite the Bell Centre. And what’s more important, they keep coming back month after month.
Mira Burt-Wintonick, producer at CBC Radio’s Wiretap, was hooked immediately.
“I first heard about Confabulation back when it started. I’d been a huge fan of storytelling podcasts like The Moth and Risk! and so was excited to finally see something like that happening in Montreal.”
And while she comes for the entertainment, she also has been able to find some interesting stories for the popular radio program she co-produces. Last summer, she heard Taylor Tower’s story about posing as a 35-year-old man in an online parenting chat room. After the show, Burt-Wintonick approached Tower, a writer and public relations consultant, and asked her if she would retell her story on air.
“Telling a story on stage was a frightening idea at first,” Tower says. “I didn’t know what to expect. But the audience response was unbelievable. People came up to me afterward to tell me how much they liked my story. It was immediate gratification, unlike the solitary act of writing. The fact that it led to WireTap was a dream come true.”
“The story is kind of inherently fascinating because it’s so intense and unexpected,” Burt-Wintonick says. “But it also touches on universal themes like the desire to be something you’re not and the appeal of self-reinvention, which makes it more compelling than your average quirky story.”
Even in this frantic digital age, we still seek the comforts of a heartfelt connection.
Confabulation presents The Shortest Story, 29 micro-stories in honour of the shortest month of the year, Saturday, Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. at Shift Space, 1190 St. Antoine St. W. Admission is on a pay-what-you-can basis, with a suggested price of $6. Visit confabulationmontreal.com orfacebook.com/confab for details.
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