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  • Writer's pictureLoren Niemi


As the Founder of the American School of Storytelling I have been asked what exactly is your vision for the school? My answer is the creation of the school was a response to the pandemic and so we have begun with online storytelling classes. That was the necessity. The how-to of traditional and personal stories at first. Then adding specialized topics that no one else is offering. These one or two a month classes will be expanded to include poetry and spoken word as narrative and oral performance in 2023.

My intention was to move to in-person classes as soon as we could and except for Elizabeth Ellis and I offering the “Difficult Stories” workshop, those classes are still in the future. We’ll come to them as we can, and certainly at the point where we have ongoing access to an ongoing physical space that we own or rent.

The third element of the school is performance. Whether we think of it as “let us demonstrate what we teach”, or as providing audiences with quality storytelling not dependent on the Moth Slam model, there is a need for it. And here is where the fortuitous comes into play as a friend of The Christine’s has opened The Briar, a lovely intimate bistro in NE Minneapolis (on the corner of 13th and Washington Street – a few blocks east of the Ritz Theater) and offered us the use of the space on Wednesday nights for a performance residency series. Lucky us.

We opened the series on November 16th with singer-songwriter, poet and fellow Finn, Diane Jarvi and myself welcoming the dark season. It felt so good to be in the room with folks, responding to the “vibe” and trading stories / songs back and forth. We had an appreciative audience of twenty or so who included neighborhood folks who stopped in to see what was going on. Lucky them.

Generally, the performances will be on the second Wednesday of the month. Doors open at 6:30 PM and the performance starts at 7:00 PM. $10 at the door for what is one of the most intimate performance venues in the Twin Cities. The furthest seat in the bistro is less than 20 feet from the stage and we are going to cap the audience size at 30 seats. For those of you who fondly remember Two Chairs Telling and have asked me when I am going to offer it again, this is not quite that, but it will offer many of those elements, especially telling in the moment, on-stage dialogue and responding to each other’s material.

On December 14th, we will feature the multi-talented Rose McGee, who may or may not bring one of her award-winning sweet potato pies, as well as a mix of traditional and personal stories to the Briar stage. In a season of gift giving, I expect this to be one that you will remember.

On January 11th it is a trifecta of taxi stories and poems from Scott Vetsch, Hardy Coleman and myself spanning 50 years of running meters on the streets of Minneapolis. The historical, hysterical and unexpected will more than likely be mixed with droll humor and intoxicating images of the past and present city.

February through April are yet to be confirmed, but they will make it worth skipping the Wednesday night Bible study in favor of the Wednesday night celebration of rich orality and vivid narrative. In May we will have an Art-A-Whirl mini-festival. We’ll finish the residency season in June and make a decision about starting a second season in September.

We are also considering doing a once-a-month open mike starting in January, welcoming both poetry and stories but have not finalized that yet. At this point the barrier is the schedule and hosting, given the demands of our online classes and travel. If you have an opinion on whether it is needed or welcomed, let us know.


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