By Margie M. Palmer
Mission Valley local brings age-old art to Finest City Improv
Storytelling is among the oldest and most effective forms of communication; it’s taken various shapes and forms since the beginning of humanity.
Thus, it’s no great surprise that Finest City Improv, the home of the largest variety of improvised comedy in San Diego, has decided to feature the tradition in its monthly show, A Moment of Truth.
Finest City Improv founder Amy Lisweski said that while expert improvisers are trained to embrace off-the-cuff storytelling, the storytellers in this show aren’t all trained in improv.
“They’re speaking from the heart and sharing their values, their truths and their memories in a very open way,” she said.
Joining the show this month is Mission Valley resident Kendall Burdett. He, along with co-host Robert Rutherford, hope to get participants to embrace the idea of being vulnerable.
The pair are part of The Narrators San Diego, a group which promotes the art of storytelling and provides community access to storytelling events. Last year, The Narrators found a home in San Diego every second Tuesday of each month at Tiger! Tiger! Tavern.
The group has since united with Finest City Improv to tell stories and cultivate an atmosphere of support and joyful honesty.
“The Moment of Truth is something we wanted to do because it involves improv along with storytelling, which is another thing that’s becoming big [in San Diego]. The city has a huge storytelling community,” Burdett said, adding that there is a lot of overlap between the two genres. “[The show] intersects them by having people tell true stories from their lives. They’ll come up and draw the theme out of a hat and they’ll need to tell that story on the spot. That’s where the improv part comes in.”
Although some will be funny, Burdett said some of the best stories are more dramatic.
“There’s no preparation for this other than what someone draws out of the hat,” he said.
Interested volunteers will be invited on stage to tell five-minute stories; they won’t be interrupted. The subjects will vary and will range from awkward and hilarious to heartbreaking and inspired.
Lisewski describes the best part of the show as the moment when the storyteller hears their audience-chosen topic.
“While they take a minute to digest their topic, you can see the wheels turning and the creative process unfolding,” she said. “We all have these moments in life where we must pause, think about our next step, and then move forward with confidence. It’s a very moving moment to witness.”
Burdett said he wants people to know that those who attend the performance are by no means required to participate.
“Just being in the audience is wonderful,” he said. “If people want to participate or volunteer they should know this is the most supportive environment they can imagine. There is no failing here. The best stories are the ones that are true and you should never be afraid to share something from your life, no matter how awkward, embarrassing or vulnerable it makes you,” he said. “It’s OK to be vulnerable in life, on stage and off.”
The next Moment of Truth experience is scheduled for Saturday, June 11 at 7 p.m. at the Lafayette Hotel. For more information or to buy advance tickets visit finestcityimprov.com.
—Margie M. Palmer is a San Diego-based freelance writer who has been racking up bylines for a myriad of publications for the past decade. Reach her at email@example.com.