Portland Story Theater at the Alberta Abbey

2015 Year in Review

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Thank you for a fabulous 2015! Everyone at Portland Story Theater is grateful for you — our listeners, our storytellers, our donors, our volunteers — everyone who believes that supporting this art form makes the world a better place, one real, true story at a time.

It was a whirlwind year for Portland Story Theater, and we have a lot to celebrate! We had over 5,000 people in our live audiences to hear and experience our stories. Our YouTube channel has had over 32,000 hits and we’re growing our Podcast presence on iTunes and SoundCloud. We hit over 2,500 on Facebook. We launched our Instagram page and we continue to tweet to our friends on Twitter. We were lucky enough to win grants from Oregon Cultural Trust and Meyer Memorial Trust which allowed us to expand our team with a Communications guru and an Operations expert (take note: we’re currently hiring for the operations position). But it was the Miller Foundation who acknowledged Portland Story Theater’s work and paved the way for these other grantors. We also added Zipcar® to our growing list of sponsors, which also includes Ear Trumpet Lab, Tonkon Torp, Ninkasi Brewing, ¿Por Que No?, Eastside Distilling, Pacific Pie and others.

We had a year filled with memorable moments and we wanted to share some of the highlights with you!


Producer Shay Knorr with Director Lynne Duddy and Narrative Artist Lawrence Howard pre-show at the Cascades Theatrical Company in Bend, Oregon

Producer Shay Knorr with Director Lynne Duddy and Narrative Artist Lawrence Howard pre-show at the Cascades Theatrical Company in Bend, Oregon

We rang in the new year with a brand new Armchair Adventure, the world premiere of The Essex. The inspiration for Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, the Essex is the true story of a Nantucket whaling ship that was rammed and sunk by a sperm whale in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in 1820.

The show was part of the Fertile Ground festival, and with our expanded space over at the Alberta Abbey, we were able to expose a lot of people to Lawrence Howard’s stellar storytelling. We also took the show to Bend in April as a special Solo Speak production. Oregon ArtsWatch’s review describes this story as one “about varying kinds of courage, and the mettle that men find, or don’t find, in their souls.”


The love notes written by audience members for their sweethearts and submitted to our Love Note Lottery were a hit at our annual Valentine’s show, Kiss & Tell.

Portland Story Theater Kiss & Tell Valentine's Show at the Alberta Abbey


To my wife:
Roses are red
beautiful and varied.
This is the best Valentine’s
because we’re legally married.

But our favorite expression of love at Kiss & Tell was a surprise proposal!

Check out this video of Aaron & Paige’s surprise engagement!


Portland Story Theater St. Paddy's Show at the Alberta Abbey

Traditional Irish music by Brian ÓhAirt and Brenda Scearcy on penny whistles with Jim Loewenherz on the bodhrán drum.

March brought the luck o’ the Irish to our first annual St. Paddy’s show, Kiss Me, I’m Irish, with stories, limericks, songs, and traditional Irish music. Brenda Scearcy and Jim Lowenherz of Innisfree shared the stage with the incomparable Brian ÓhAirt, a dancer, Sean-Nos singer, and winner of the Irish Music Awards.

Enjoy this video of Scearcy and ÓhAirt on penny whistles accompanied by Lowenherz on the bodhrán drum.


Portland Story Theater offices in NE Portland

Welcome to our world. Portland Story Theater’s offices. Lots of windows. Lots of whiteboards. Lots of lights. Lots of ideas!

The luck of the Irish stayed with Portland Story Theater through April, bringing us a funding award that allowed us to extend an offer to our bright, competent intern, Darby Sanders, who became our first part-time communications person. Since then, Darby moved to Boston and now we have the fabulous Christine Toohey filling the role of Communications Guru.

Here’s an inside look Portland Story Theater world headquarters where a lot of the magic happens!


Portland Story Theaters Urban Teller and artist Sabina Haque speaks at TEDxMtHood. Photo by Alex McKissack

Portland Story Theater Urban Teller and artist Sabina Haque speaks at TEDxMtHood. Photo by Alex McKissack

Portland Story Theater had an opportunity to coach one of our past Urban Tellers®, artist Sabina Haque. She was chosen as the 2015 TEDxMtHood Artist in Residence. We helped Sabina create a talk that reflected the many windows of her life, which also inspired and shaped the art that she created for 2015 TEDxMtHood!

Listen to Sabina’s TEDtalk here.


Portland Story Theater fans

Portland Story Theater hand-held fans keep everybody cool when things heat up in the city.

At Portland Story Theater, we always take care of our loyal fans. When the temperature turned up, we gave everyone who came to our Urban Tellers® show a very cool Portland Story Theater fan. In spite of the beautiful weather outside, our listeners flocked to hear Urban Tellers® share their true, personal, and authentic stories.


Portland Story Theater - Audience at Alberta Abbey - Photo by Mike Bodine


July marked the end of our 2014-2015 season. We were incredibly thankful for such a successful season, made possible in part by generous grants from the Miller Foundation, the Oregon Community Foundation, and the Meyer Memorial Trust. Celebrated author Philip Pullman said, “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” The July Urban Tellers® show nourished the spirit of everyone who was there. This show was called Family Ties and featured stories by Veronica Swehla, Amy Pearson, Samuel Willoughby, Michael Alexander, Enrique E. Andrade, and Talen Nikolai Moe.


Portland Story Theater's house band Bamberger, Engel, Hines, and Eave

Bamberger, Engel, Hines, and Eave, Portland Story Theater’s house band

In August, we announced our eleventh season, and our second year at Alberta Abbey. We decided to add music to all of our shows, and we are delighted to host a pre-show Social Hour with live improvisational jazz from our new house band, Bamberger, Engel, Hines and Eave. Check out their smooth sound with this track, called Salt Water Taffy.”



Portland Story Theater at the Alberta Abbey with teller Warren McPherson at Founders, Friends, and Faves

Warren McPherson telling Funk & Fatherhood at Founders, Friends, and Faves. Photo by Mike Bodine

Founders, Friends, and Faves was our season opener. We had the good fortune of touring around Oregon, including Dallas and Hood River as well as performing at our home base, the Alberta Abbey in Portland. The show featured short stories from our new troupe of tellers: Leigh Hancock, John Mink, Penny Walter, Warren McPherson, Howard Bulick, along with founders Lynne Duddy and Lawrence Howard.

The show was met with rave reviews. The Oregon ArtsWatch review pointed out that “It’s important to realize the struggles and victories, small and big, that we all share. This is the premise of Portland Story Theater: one person, one story, and our listening.” We had a great time and loved it so much, we’ve decided to tour more next year and hope to gain funding through grants and private donors. Learn more about supporting Portland Story Theater and our future tours.


Portland Story Theater's Halloween show Spellbound at the Alberta Abbey

The audience was in the Halloween spirit at October’s “Spellbound” show. Photo booth Hosts: Kriya Kaping and Niko Moe. Photographs by Talen N Moe.

Portland Story Theater resurrected our annual Halloween show Spellbound over at the Alberta Abbey with true stories of the supernatural. Lighting and special effects were provided by Billy Bork of The Attic, with music by Meoneo, renowned jazz duo from Bonn, Germany. Hosted by Sam A. Mowry, founder of the Willamette Radio Workshop, the show featured Portland Story Theater favorites Mary Welch, Tim Stapleton, and Annie LaGanga. Everyone loved our spooky photo booth!


Portland Story Theater with ASL interpreters

ASL interpreters rocked it at the November show. Photo by Mike Bodine.

For the November Urban Tellers® show, we were honored to have American Sign Language interpreters, thanks to a generous donation by Storyminders. November also marked the launch of one of our new workshop offerings. This year we’re trying out a couple of new approaches to our workshops that don’t have performances. One is a one-day offering called Storytelling Bootcamp, and the other is a fast-paced, 90-minute Storytelling Starter, which we held in September. Both were great successes and we plan to offer these again each quarter. Take a look at our 2016 workshop schedule.


Portland Story Theater mugs, May The Narrative Be With You®

Everything is better in a Portland Story Theater mug. Photo by Penny’s Puppet Productions.

Portland Story Theater now has mugs and tote bags available for sale, perfect gifts for any time of year. Take a look at the Portland Story Theater Gift Shop, then send us a photo of your mug! Here is a photo by Penny Walter, Portland Story Theater board member and founder of Penny’s Puppet Productions.

2015 was a fabulous year and everyone at Portland Story Theater is so grateful. May the coming year be very good to you and yours.

May the narrative be with you!®

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