A Storytelling Tradition Continues

March 6, 2014 | CUNY Graduate School of Journalism

A Storytelling Tradition Continues

Alexis3a

By Jacob Passy
Class of 2014

Students in Michael Lysak’s Audio News Writing and Reporting class kept a three-year tradition alive, converging on a venue outside the CUNY J-School for a night of storytelling and fun. The annual event, inspired by public radio’s Moth Radio Hour, involves students telling five-minute tales onstage in front of an audience without a formal script or notes.

Jesse Hardman and the class of 2012 began the tradition when they headed to Tobacco Road, a dive bar near Port Authority to practice conversational storytelling and public speaking onstage. Last year, students from Amanda Aronczyk’s and Alex Goldmark’s classes returned to Tobacco Road. Notable stories included a couple’s anguish (and sense of humor) over naming their first child, a year abroad love affair gone awry, and a father and daughter relationship as expressed through the love of eating conch in the Caribbean. For this year’s installment, students took to an exciting new location: the Spanish Benevolent Society on West 14th St

Before the students from Michael Lysak’s class, hit the microphone, they got some expert performance tips from CUNY J-School alumna Daisy Rosario. A line producer with NPR’s Latino USA, she honed her storytelling chops as a comic and Moth StorySLAM winner. Rosario told students to act naturally; if they found a story interesting, so would their audience.

During the evening, Alexis Barnes described how she learned to ask others for help after a serious car accident left her with two broken legs. María Villaseñor spoke about learning to say no as she struggled to balance her own career ambitions with an obligation to help her father pay his mortgage.
 


 


 

Other stories had a lighter tone. Leila Roos explained how taking on the sex column for the school newspaper at her conservative Midwestern college inspired her to be a writer. EJ Stewart traced the history of his beard to an ill-fated attempt to woo a girl on Valentine’s Day. The beard became part of his “dark identity,’ only later did he discover that people thought it looked good.
 


 


 

The evening wasn’t over until Professor Lysak took to the stage to tell his own story about “the circle of life” and how a chance meeting in high school led to meeting his wife.

Lysak said the event helps students develop a conversational tone. “That’s what we aim for in radio,” he said. “It’s incredibly easy when you’re talking about yourself – so the trick is now to go cover a news story and have that same kind of flair.”

In all, nine students told their tales last Monday night. And two more storytelling nights are in the works. Students from Amanda Aronczyk’s section of Audio News Writing and Reporting will do the same on Monday, Mar. 10, and Alex Goldmark’s students will follow on Friday, Mar. 21. Both events start at 5 p.m. and all are welcome to attend for an evening of sangria and storytelling.
 

Michael Lysak’s audio news writing and reporting class held a storytelling night at the Spanish Benevolent Society on Monday. Photo by Pearl Macek ’14

Michael Lysak’s Audio News Writing and Reporting class held a storytelling night at the Spanish Benevolent Society on Monday. Photo by Pearl Macek ’14