‘Stories from the Stage’ 24-hour storytelling marathon airs on WORLD Channel
Starting on June 22, WORLD Channel will air a 24-hour marathon of episodes from its program “Stories from the Stage” in collaboration with WGBH and Massmouth, a Boston-based nonprofit that promotes storytelling. Each 30-minute episode features three local storytellers using anecdotes from their lives to comment on the larger world.
“I think historically speaking in this country if you look at the literary canon, it really involves voices from a specific segment. At ‘Stories from the Stage’ we really make an effort to find storytellers from all walks of life,” says Theresa Okokon, who co-hosts the show with Wes Hazard.
One such storyteller bringing new perspectives to the stage is Kwasi Mensah, a local comic and the co-producer of “Laugh Liberally Boston.” Mensah is a first generation American of Ghanaian descent. His stories often center on his experience as a black man with an immigrant background as he explores his family’s history. Mensah says telling these stories has caused him to connect with his heritage even more. He’s relearning his family’s native language of Twi and test-driving family recipes.
Mensah’s stories also remind the audience that more than one history exists in the United States. “When I first started out, I had a bit about how my college only gave us part of the day off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And the punch line is they only gave us three-fifths of a day off,” says Mensah. “But I would tell that joke and I would have lots of people come up to me afterwards and say, ‘Why is three-fifths an important number?’ That made me realize that there are a lot of things you take for granted in your experience that other people don’t necessarily know.”
Marathon viewers this weekend also will be the first to see the newest episode of “Stories from the Stage.” Produced in association with WCTE Tennessee, “Rocky Top Remembers” highlights Southern storytellers, including one teller who recounts his experience as the first black baseball player at Tennessee Tech University.
Okokon encourages viewers who enjoy the program to attend a live show as well. “For me, one of the purposes of storytelling is to hear another person’s perspective, and you get let in in a very intimate way,” she says of the in-person performances.
She recalls the “New Beginnings” live show when Mercia Tapping was telling a story about the passing of her husband. During the telling, everything that could go wrong did. Cell phones went off, the elevator went haywire, glasses dropped and Tapping eventually had to tell the story again to get a slightly cleaner taping. At the end of the story, she told Okokon that her late husband was a prankster and she was sure he was the one wreaking havoc in the theater. It was a powerful experience, Okokon says.
Whether marathon viewers are first-time watchers of “Stories from the Stage” or longtime fans of the show, Okokon hopes they come away with something new. “You listen to a story with the ears that you have on your head that day. You’re always coming through your own lens,” she says. “I hope people can come back to stories that they’ve already heard and pick up a new piece of wisdom or a new feeling.”