As part of our efforts to strengthen community bonds through the art of storytelling, Ex Fabula occasionally does Community Collaborations with schools, businesses, and nonprofits in the Greater Milwaukee region. Some of these events are private, while others are open to the public. One upcoming public Community Collaboration will take place in October as part of Waukesha Reads.

The following article explains the details of the collaboration, so please read on… and perhaps we’ll see you in Waukesha! 

Waukesha Reads

Have you lost your mind?

Ex Fabula to present Edgar Allan Poe themed storytelling events as part of Waukesha Reads 

I first read Edgar Allan Poe in freshman English class over 20 years ago. Even today, I recall my delight at the word “tintinnabulation” and the creepy sensations that the Tale-Tell Heart gave me. “This is no Little House on the Prairie”, I must have thought, intrigued by the poems and stories’ dark tone and ambiguities. Today, I’m excited to revisit those poems and stories – with a twist; as part of Waukesha Reads, I and others from Ex Fabula will help people tell true, personal stories inspired by a theme that Poe would approve of: “Losing My Mind”.

Ex Fabula is a Milwaukee nonprofit organization that strengthens community bonds through the art of storytelling. We are most well known for monthly StorySlams that we hold in different Milwaukee neighborhoods from October to May. The first StorySlam happened because a loosely connected group of people kept having the same conversation: “I wish someone would start a storytelling event in Milwaukee.” “Yeah, someone should start that.” After several iterations of that conversation, we started to wonder if perhaps we were the ones who should start it. So, we met for lunch at Maharaja, and over Indian food, the five of us decided that we’d put on an event. Six weeks later, in November 2009, 50 people gathered at ArtBar in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood to hear true, personal stories on the theme of “Beginnings.” Pleased with our first event, we decided to hold another one, and then another, and another.

Ex Fabula was completely volunteer run until this January when I became the Executive Director, which has allowed us to do more community collaborations. We believe that everyone has personal stories worth telling, so it’s very rewarding to partner with organizations on storytelling events. We especially like to partner with nonprofits that have community building in their mission, so Waukesha Reads is a natural fit. In fact, you could say that both organizations are like cousins, born from the same love of community and stories!

Our main contribution to Waukesha Reads will be a free StorySlam on Tuesday October 14. For those who are new to Ex Fabula, you can come just to listen – or, if you have a true, personal story on the theme of “Losing My Mind”, throw your name in the hat for a chance to take the stage. No props, no notes – just the elements of “Story. Stage. You.” Stories are limited to 5 minutes, so it’s a good idea to run through your story with a stopwatch before you take the stage, although we do provide a timekeeper that cues the tellers to help them stay on track.

Thinking about telling a story? “Losing My Mind” can be interpreted very broadly. I personally could tell a lighthearted tale about a job I had years ago and a boss that metaphorically drove my coworkers and me crazy. Or, I could share one of several heavier stories about the mental illness and depression that run in my family. Perhaps we’ll hear a tale about a stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, or brain injury. Perhaps someone will talk about a situation that made them feel confused or lost, like starting a new job, attending a new school, traveling to another country, or ending a relationship. Maybe we’ll even hear about a person persecuted by a raven – but only if the story is true and happened to the person that tells it. Poe has his stories and you have your own!

Want help selecting and preparing a story?  Please join us for a free workshop on the evening of Wednesday October 8th. At this workshop, Ex Fabula storytelling coaches will guide you through interactive exercises that help you select a story, structure it, and practice it. We’ll specifically focus on the theme of “Losing My Mind”, so don’t worry if you can’t think of a story yet.

Finally, I’d like to note that although Poe died almost 200 years ago, the “insupportable loneliness” that he felt is a modern plague. Even with modern technology, it’s still easy to feel disconnected and isolated. Luckily, events like Waukesha Reads can be an antidote for those feelings. It’s never too early to get a booster shot of community, so I hope to see you at the Ex Fabula workshop and StorySlam, and I look forward to hearing your stories.


The Big ReadEvents:

Wednesday October 8th, 6 to 8 pm, Storytelling Workshop at UW-Waukesha

Tuesday October 14th , 7 to 9 pm, “Losing My Mind” StorySlam at Waukesha West High School


PS: Waukesha Reads is part of the Big Read, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. Hooray!