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Portland Story Theater’s “Singlehandedly” Solo Works Festival!

200x275-96dpi-posterIf anyone out there has done public speaking, you know how much bravery it takes to tell a story to a room full of strangers. Being able to engage an audience with nothing more than a good story is challenging enough, but digging deep into your own experience, taking an audience of strangers with you on a personal journey and helping them to feel what you experienced, that takes some serious talent.

This weekend Portland Story Theater is presenting four days of solo storytelling in “Singlehandedly,” the world’s only festival with a focus on long-form, personal narratives. Every night listeners will be treated to new works presented by some of the Northwest’s most compelling storytellers. Audiences will get up close and personal in the intimate Hipbone Studio as the artists delight them with real, true stories. While the focus is on local talent, there will be a special, nationally-acclaimed guest artist-in-residence: Annie La Ganga.

“Solo performance is about being present.” says Lynne Duddy, co-founder of Portland Story Theater. “It is a conscious performance that engages people deeply, where the artist is always present in the moment, taking the audience on a journey through the inner workings of the heart. Storytelling as solo performance is not about “I” or “me,” it’s about “we.” It is a shared experience that breaks down the barriers between teller and listener, and both are transformed.”

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Happy Birthday Lenny Bruce!

Tomorrow is legendary comedian/social critic Lenny Bruce‘s birthday. Had Bruce not died in 1966 of “acute morphine poisoning caused by accidental overdose” in his home in the Hollywood Hills, he would be celebrating his 86th birthday. Despite his success, Bruce led a tortured life and he used comedy as an outlet for his frustrations with, not only his personal life, but with American culture in general.

He had good reason to be frustrated, his performances often ended with him being taken away in handcuffs by police officers who deemed his comedic style obscene and offensive. Social criticism and obscenities are commonplace amongst today’s stand-up comedians, but this is due to the pioneering work of Lenny Bruce and the multiple injustices that he was forced to endure. It’s clear when one looks at comedians before Bruce and after. Just compare Bob Hope or Bob Newhart to say Richard Pryor or George Carlin. The difference is night and day and neither Pryor or Carlin  would have achieved the level of success that they did, without Lenny Bruce blazing the trail for them. He pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable and challenged his audiences to think about the world around them and essentially changed the face of stand-up for the latter half of the twentieth century. Today, tons of comedians use risqué language, outlandish behavior and controversial subject matter to drive their material. They don’t have to rely on what’s “safe” or predictable, they can push the boundaries and every one of those comedians owes something to Lenny Bruce.
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