Imagine . . . you’re in a moonlit patio under a spreading ficus tree, surrounded by friends and fresh air, glass of wine (or can of limonata) in your hand. You’ve scored great seats in the second row left, and you leave your belongings so you can mingle with friends who look just so damn beautiful out of their masks and Zoom rectangles. You stroll through the small (but choice) pop-up photography exhibit by Garth Buckles. A few chords on Abby Posner’s live guitar warn you, “It’s showtime!” You hustle back to your seat and Strong Words begins its 75th live storytelling show in Atwater Village.
And what a night it was! After Abby’s song, our host Larry Dean Harris introduced Barbara H. Clark. The petite 87-year-old storyteller, teacher and producer delivered “Free,” a haunting tale of how soldiers came to tell the slaves of a Virginia plantation (including Barbara’s then-5 year old great-grandmother) that they were free. Folks were crying, cheering, and at the end they leaped to their feet to give Barbara Strong Words’ first-ever standing ovation.
Courageously, Russell Alexander-Orozco followed with an amusing recap of his acting gig on “The Man with Two Brains,” and next, the congenial Roy Cruz offered a bittersweet tale of his mother’s passing, including her choice to be cremated in her new purple and gold outfit with matching purse. What a high-wire act!
The fourth speaker, Vicki Juditz, gave us a clinic on how to turn stage fright to advantage with “The Gun,” playing her nervous self taking a gun lesson from Dave, the creepy gun dealer. Marvelous!
It was a treat to hear the elegant blonde Marlene Nichols read a brilliant story in an impeccable Mississippi accent. Jonathan Tipton Meyers conveyed all the anguish of love lost and found, and Abby Posner closed out the program with songs from her upcoming album.
The one disappointment of the night: our StoryMaster Ashton Cynthia Clarke was sick and unable to tell her story — on her birthday eve too. Ashton, we missed you!