From this week's Print Edition

Stories for Grown-ups

Strengthening Communities with Stories
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Rex McDaniel
Photo by Sally Kilby

Want to hear real-life stories for grown-ups?

You can do so from 7 to 9 p.m. on the first Monday of each month in the basement of Griffin’s of Kinsale Irish Pub at 1007 Mission St. in South Pasadena.

The event is billed as “The Otter Story Hour: Stories that Remind You of What You Love About Life.”

The free monthly performance features four to five ordinary people and a number of professional actors and comics telling their tales of heartbreak, amazement and frustration. Each event attracts about 25 people.

The next story hour is Monday, May 7. It’s theme will be, “At first I was a fool.”

Rex McDaniel, retired pastor of Calvary Presbyterian Church in South Pasadena, is the founder and host.

He began to think about public storytelling several years ago. “Before retiring in 2016, after more than 40 years in the ministry,” he said, “I thought about how I could create a venue for people to have a voice, share their gift and make a contribution.”

He had already begun attending a Toastmasters public speaking group that met at Calvary “just to be with them,” he said.

He said he believed he had the skills to create a forum for speakers who wanted an outlet to share their experiences.

The Otter Story Hour. Courtesy photo

“The Otter Story Hour,” which he started in May 2017, was the result of that vision.

“I have a deep conviction,” he said, “that it’s in the sharing of our gifts that we’re all encouraged, strengthened, enlivened, enriched and made more powerful. And the community becomes stronger.”

At a recent Otter performance, McDaniel said to the audience, “Life is stranger than fiction.Have things happened to you as an ordinary person that are incredible, unbelievable? Tell that story at The Otter.”

Pitches on upcoming monthly themes can be proposed to McDaniel by email at theotterstoryhour@gmail.com.

Each presenter’s tale ranges from seven to nine minutes. “The goal,” McDaniel said in an email, “is to have five or six stories and run for roughly an hour.”

McDaniel offers free coaching to presenters prior to their performances. The process takes three to four hours, he said. 

The idea behind the “Otter” in the name came from Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, “Born to Run.”

Springsteen said, according to the otter story hour’s website, “You have to pull up the things that mean something to you in order for them to mean anything to your audience.”

Otters pull their food up from the bottom, the site explains. When they get to the surface, they float on their back and crack open the shell of a clam or other food, and “get the life they need.”

“Our Otter storytellers,” the website explains, “pull up meaningful experiences from the depths of their lives, crack them open on their heart to expose what is tender and get them off their chest.” 

Before each show, audience members can order drinks and traditional Irish fare from the pub. McDaniel suggests that they phone in a dinner order before arriving.

For more information, visit www.theotterstoryhour.com or its Facebook page (search the otter story hour).

Sally Kilby, a South Pasadena resident, was City Clerk 2000-2013. Prior to that, she worked in health care as a nurse, medical librarian, advertising copywriter, writer and journal editor. She is involved in various community organizations. Her two grown children attended South Pasadena schools and work at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena.

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