I had the pleasure of participating in the debut performance evening of the Indigan Storytellers group last Friday night. As Rocky Balboa once said “you shoulda been there.” It was an intimate evening of exquisitely told stories coupled with fine hand-crafted whiskey. The location was Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks, Michigan.
The room was packed and a good time was had by all.
I report on the event here for two reasons. First, because Storytelling as an art form is creativity of the highest order. Innovators of all kinds have much to learn about the craft as a method to elaborate new inventions, messages, and brands. Learning how to write and then perform a 10 minute story is an exercise all innovators would learn something important from doing. Another approach to using story is being pioneered by my KILN partner, Kate Hammer, Phd. Her StoryForms tool is another way to explore story in a way relevant to invention, innovation, and branding (@StoryFORMing)
The second reason is about the role of community formation in creativity and innovation. Culture is where creativity lives — and a rich arts culture is the prepared ground for jobs, corporate innovation, and stable communities. This is true for geographic communities as well as the communities that form within organizations. Richard Florida has done a lot of research around how innovation happens in cities and towns. Essentially, creative people move to places where a rich arts culture exists. San Francisco and Austin are big city examples. Three Oaks, an unlikely candidate, is rapidly emerging as the small town example. Indigan is the newest reason why. A nod here to the Acorn Theater in Three Oaks as the area cornerstone for arts culture formation.
Indigan Storytellers is creating a community of like minded artists in southwest Michigan. The word Indigan is a mash-up of Indiana and Michigan. Credit to the founders for not defaulting to Michiana. Founders include poet and consultant Roger Batton of Three Oaks, Michigan and nationally known storyteller and screenwriter, Daniel Waterhouse. Dan is from South Bend which is the biggest city in Michiana. Roger told a powerful story about self-discovery — involving a crazy sheepdog, pacifism, and rage. Dan told three stories, one better than the next. My favorite was a new story about love at first sight.
Indigan Storytelling performers included:
- Colleen Newquist, an award winning writer — Colleen told a well crafted story about luck and communication with departed loved ones.
- Rick Tuttle a Three Oaks based painter and poet — told a story about the power of words to hurt, reveal personality, and redeem with laughter.
- Mary Dean Cason also an award winning writer (www.marydeancason.com) — told a rollicking and humorous story with a grand southern drawl, about a classic mis-understanding.
- Myself, Gregg Fraley, my contribution was a hopefully humorous story about recognizing who I am as a person, titled “Goofball.”
- Phil Bonello, a rounder, reprobate and good family man, told a wacky story about the hijinks of grad students, and finally,
- Stephanie Medlock, a published novelist (The Lives of Things, www.swilsonmedlock.com) gave us a Mad Men-esque vision of NYC and coming of age as a woman.
If you are a Michiana resident, keep an eye out for Indigan Storyteller events. If you’re an innovator, it’s time to revisit the power of story.