Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Oh What Tales They Will Tell

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Oh What Tales They Will Tell

Article excerpt

Shannon Cason grew up in Detroit, where his father, who sells ads for a hair magazine found in beauty salons, used his storytelling skills to earn a living.

"He would always connect with the hairdressers. He could talk the gossip with them. So he'd make those connections and make sales throughout Detroit. Everybody knows my Dad, it seems like. He's 73 and still running around and talking," Mr. Cason said.

Now living in Chicago, Mr. Cason, 38, has developed his own storytelling chops and is one of five people who will spin yarns at the Moth Mainstage at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Byham Theater, Downtown. Each story will focus on the theme of balancing acts. Another out-of-town raconteur on the bill is Trisha Coburn, a 60- year-old short-story writer and interior designer who lives on New York City's Upper West Side.

Living in a major city such as Chicago often requires some fast juggling. For the past year, Mr. Cason has been one of several hosts of a monthly event called "Do Not Submit," an open forum for budding storytellers.

"I would see comedians have open mikes where they could practice and get their jokes down," said Mr. Cason, who started the forum with his Pittsburgh friend, Scott White.

"He produces a lot of shows here in Chicago. He also teaches storytelling," Mr. Cason said.

"Do Not Submit" is held on the last Monday of each month at Powell's Bookstore on Chicago's North Side. From 7:30 to 10 p.m., people relate eight-minute stories.

"There's a lot of people performing. You've got to have some place where you can go and submit. It's an open and democratic forum. Anybody can come. But it's storytelling, not poetry or stand- up," Mr. Cason said.

First-timers are often nervous but once someone laughs, "they get comfortable because it's their story," Mr. Cason said. Topics include weird life experiences, relationships and unusual situations. "It serves a purpose for people who want to grow and learn more and just get better at what they enjoy."

Mr. Cason lives north of Lincoln Park in Chicago, with his wife, Cindy, and their 4-year-old daughter, Zoe. This will be his first visit to Pittsburgh.

As a youth, he said, "I always read a lot. I used to write short stories. I would put them on my blog and people would read them. I would read my stories at coffee shops and story slams."

Some of his favorite short story writers are Raymond Carver, Anton Chekhov, Elmore Leonard, who died Tuesday at age 87, and noir writer George V. Higgins.

"I do a podcast that's called Homemade Stories. That's on iTunes. I started it before I even knew about storytelling. I would read the short stories I wrote. I give a little commentary and play the music I like."

The Moth will feature three local storytellers: Justin Strong, 35, of Point Breeze, who founded the Shadow Lounge in East Liberty; Pittsburgh actor David Newell, 74, of O'Hara, who played Mr. …

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