After spending a lovely day panting from the heat in Dolores Park, I walked over to Stage Werx Theatre to see the newest installment of The Vent storytelling series. This was my first time at Stage Werx, an intimate venue with a small stage for use by a solo performer. After settling into the cushioned seats, the host, Bruce Pachtman, quickly introduced the show and the first storyteller.
Sandy Stec, a radio personality at Star 101.3, waltzed onto the floor and began telling us about the time she lost her friends in Vegas while eating at a buffet, and had to find them at a Thunder from Down Under show (you know, the one with the Australian male strippers). She ended up talking to one of the performers, and to her surprise, he asked her back to his hotel room. I won’t give away the rest of the story, but it does include a stolen buffet muffin, awkward sex, and a “slutty high five”. Sandy was a great performer and got the crowd in a rowdy mood for the rest of the storytellers.
“People are never angry for the reasons they think they are” was Kay DeMartini’s lesson of the night, which she had the audience chant throughout her story. She is a member of a church that practices meditation (she even called Deepak Chopra her “gay aunt”), and told us about a frustrating time in her life: her son was angry at her after she talked to her church friends about him quitting the Special Forces; meanwhile, her chin was swelling up and had to be drained by a doctor—all while she was trying to find a barber school to attend. It was interesting to hear Kay’s take on these events, and how she used meditation to calm herself down and understand the feelings of others.
Enzo Lombard was up next, and overtook the audience with his booming voice that reached every corner of the room. His story was complex and incredibly entertaining, weaving the tale of him and his husband finding a house for themselves in New Orleans in order to take care of his severely disabled mother-in-law. I won’t be able to do the story justice by explaining it, but his hilarious observations comparing New Orleans to True Blood and a “hell for vegans” were softened with poignant moments that showed how much he cared for his family, and how far he would go to take care of them.
After a short intermission, Mosa Maxwell-Smith skipped on stage and told one of the strangest, grossest, and funniest stories I have ever heard. “There is a fine line between reducing, reusing & recycling, and hoarding”, she began, and told the story of growing up in a family that refused to throw anything away. Her parents would reuse everything, including braiding old sheets into rugs and turning her dad’s old underwear into cleaning rags, and her mother would even take the clumps of hair that got stuck on the shower wall and deposit them into an empty margarine tub in her bathroom drawer. At this point, the whole audience began shrieking with disgust and laughter, and I lost it when told she us how her mother’s hair tub gave her the idea to collect cat hair and make a pillow from it. Mosa’s style was fantastic, and she was one of my favorite performers of the night.
Andrea Carla Michaels was last, and her calming voice lured the audience into a false sense that this would be the tamest story of them all. Andrea was as feisty as she was funny, and told us about her experience turning 50 and how people treat her differently than when she was younger. Some of my favorite parts of the story were when her younger neighbor invited her to his birthday party, and when she walked in, everyone thought she only came to complain about the noise. Then, a drug dealer approached her and asked her out because “he liked older women”. She took these situations that some people would be too embarrassed to talk about and was able to laugh at them and reclaim them as her own. We can all only wish to be so cool.
The Vent was a quality storytelling experience, encapsulating all that I love in storytelling: vivid performances in an intimate space, where the audience is able to become absorbed by the stories. The next show is on Monday, May 19th.
Michelle Greenberg is a Litseen intern and Creative Writing student at SFSU. She likes to play drums and write poetry in her free time, and is obsessed with Charles Bukowski, Mexican food, and cats. She wants to publish at least one book of her original poetry and/ or own a guinea pig farm when she grows up.