I learned lots of things last night. Superman is lonely. Olive oil crosses are creepy. PT Cruisers are lame*. At the fourth anniversary celebration of Raconteurs storytelling events, real people told real stories about themselves without using scripts, notes, photos, videos, cell phones, props or words scribbled on their palms. They just spoke into a microphone.
And it was awesome.
As a newcomer to Toronto (and to Canada), it was exciting and comforting to be in a room full of strangers bonded by the candor of sharing. Last night's theme was "Superheroes." The stories that people told ranged from tragic and insightful to irreverent and hilarious, but they all alluded to supernatural powers or extraordinary feats—and they all meant something. My favorite tales involved getting stuck in a glass security box while visiting a brother in prison, a cat in heat thwarting a religious-cult-fueled attack and finding unlikely salvation at the Burning Man festival.
I helped organize Pecha Kucha Columbus for many years and was really drawn to the 20 x 20 format (show 20 images and speak about each one for 20 seconds), but I found the Raconteurs style to be quite liberating. I used to think that having a structure when speaking in front of an audience brought a sense of relief and organization. Now I see that not having one frees the speaker and the listener. In the heat of the moment, anything goes. See if you can work two clichés into one sentence.
*Okay, I already knew that.