Strangers spill stories

There is a monthly event, set in nearby Winooski, during which the human experience is displayed to be seemingly pre-designed, and yet simultaneously arbitrary. On Oct. 4, at The Monkey House, locals ??ocked to “Anecdote Storytelling,” an event held the first Tuesday of each month, at which stories of real experiences are reiterated authentically. “Once a month, we tell each other stories from our own lives,” event creator Brooke Dooley said on the anecdote website, in response to the question “What is anecdote?” The motto is, “True Stories Told Live. No Notes. No Bull,” according to the event’s website. Each event has a theme — this month’s theme was “It Happened One Night: Stories of Fate.” The themes are not an arbitrary feature of the event but rather a device to encourage storytellers. “When most people hear ‘storytelling,’ they think they need stage experience. The themes attempt to convince you that you have a story to share; they are a way to connect something larger to your own life,” Dooley said on the website. Prior to performance, a modestly occupied room held a group of people who seemed to know one another — likely a testament to the event’s recurrence. With beer and conversation ??owing, it seemed clear that participants were rearing to release their experiences with “fate.” Attendees approached the mic one at a time, spilling their personas out into the open air. “Fate” became personal, hilarious, heart-wrenching and essential to human life, all in one collective account of what could easily otherwise be regarded as “coincidence.” Dooley began the storytelling by attributing her life to a past circumstance, one that was beyond her control. “The reason why I am here today is because this stranger went against protocol and brought my dad to that helicopter,” Dooley said, referring to her father’s good fortune during Vietnam. According to her account, her father was retrieved from an instance of near-certain death, as another soldier ensured his safe arrival. Dooley spoke of this other soldier — “He had always been this god-like creature in my head,” she said. The crowd was silent as Dooley made it known that she would not be alive had it not been for that man. The stories were diverse, and at times the re??ective musing was broken by humor as several of the speakers claimed to be comedians or aspiring comedians. One speaker, Paddy Reagan, spoke of his early days in the realm of sexual activity. “She was like plane coming in for a landing, and I understood that it was her goal to hit my mouth,” Reagan said in reference to his ???rst kiss. Other tales told of encounters with ill cancer patients, unpredictable relationships and the fortune of acquiring a $107 pair of sneakers for free. As characters cycled through the room, the crowd — which was essentially comprised of performers — laughed, sighed and were stark silent. The event demonstrated the power of the oral tradition. By the end of the night it seemed that these people had participated with and learned from one another.