Each month or so, we profile a Story Night regular by asking him some questions about himself and his storytelling. This month’s “Some Questions” features storyteller Brendon Panke. Brendon is one of the three Madison Storyteller organizers and MCs our story nights. You can listen to Brendon’s past stories: Flagged, A Band Like Any Other, From November On, and Two Sides of a Bad Smell.
1. When and why did you come to Madison?
I moved to Madison in 2005 for grad school and to follow my then girlfriend and now wife, Sarah, who had come to grad school here the year before me. At that point in my life I was spending a lot of time doing whatever Sarah had just got done doing and by moving to where she was doing this stuff it made it look like I was doing the same thing as her instead of whatever she just finished doing.
2. What do you do with your time (when you’re not telling stories)?
Right now I spend my time being in the same place as my year old son. Usually I spend my time picking up whatever he just got done doing. We are part of a cohousing community here in town so I spend a lot of time working for that community in their garden and around their grounds. When I first came to Madison, in addition to spending a lot of time in grad school I also spent a lot of time performing with Atlas Improv Co.
3. What makes you want to tell personal stories in front of strangers and semi-strangers?
I tell stories and listen to stories because it is a fun way to relate to people. Most of my stories I tell because it makes people laugh, but in addition to making people laugh telling those stories also makes me vulnerable and when that vulnerability isn’t abused by the audience and is instead welcomed it makes me feel really great about everyone involved.
By sharing stories from parts of my life that were difficult I can transform those memories into something more positive. It helps me get a handle on parts of my life that are still painful for me. If I can take some painful or difficult memory and tell it to people in a way that makes them laugh their laughter in turn helps me transform my own memories into something more positive. It is something like psychic displacement. Fill a memory with enough positive emotions, even if they are vicarious, and painful emotions are displaced or made easier to deal with.
4. What was the first story you remember telling?
When I was a sophomore in high school I got shot in the eye with a BB gun. Which is still about the most painful experience of my life. Which either says something about just how painful it was or about how little pain I’ve experienced in my life. You’ll have to judge for yourself what my pain tolerance is. A short time after I was shot, probably within a week, I was telling this story to my friends for laughs. I was still wearing an eye patch and taking steroids for my eye at this point. Also, while I could see out of it, if I moved too much the blood and tissue loose in my eye would be shaken up like a snow globe and I wouldn’t be able to see again. I know I was telling stories before this, but this is the first time I remember telling a story to transform it from something horrible into something funny and positive. This is the first time I really remember telling a story well.
5. What is the first story you remember hearing?
I can’t remember the first personal story I remember hearing. My family were always telling stories. Stories from our lives and made up stories about our lives and just made up stories. I remember having this tape of stories my parent’s had recorded off the radio over some period of time, maybe a year or two. When we would go on long car trips I would listen to that story tape over and over again. There was a story on there about a scarred ship captain named Vaago and Vincent Price reading a recipe on how to turn yourself into a werewolf. There was also a story about a drifter who married a woman he met living in the middle of the swamp who turned out to be a cat wearing a woman’s clothes. When I came to grad school I bought a tape deck from this other grad student who I didn’t get along with and brought the tape from home. As soon as I put that story tape into the tape deck it got torn to shreds. Never should have trusted that guy’s tape deck.
6. What are some of your all-time favorite stories from the Madison Storytellers archive?
We have great regular storytellers and I’m always excited when they come back with something new for us. One of our regulars, Daiquiri, told a story, Awash, that I really liked at our event in the library last month. That was a great event and I can listen to most of those stories again and again. The library event before that was really good too. Last month’s theme was Escape and the earlier event’s theme was books. You can find stories from those events and most of the events in the last two years in our Recordings section.
Every month there is usually something good from the micro stories. Back in June there were some great micro stories. Lee Bishop, who used to run Nerd Nite here in town, told one that was a fun glimpse into his personality and my sister told one about a time she crashed a bike. Which is something we have in common since I told a micro story about crashing a dirt bike once.
At our Show-and-Tell event this first time storyteller, Mollie, told a story that I absolutely loved. I really identified with this precise moment of self-awareness that she was able to conjure up.
At our Quitting story night another first time storyteller told a hilarious story about racing the older girl who lived on her block. At our Protest event a late addition, Marty, told a story about leading a protest in his grade school.
Erika, one of the other co-organizers, told the first story I ever heard at a Madison Storytellers event and really loved when she talked about her fear of biking. That’s pretty much when I started coming to Madison Storytellers about a year and a half ago.
Our next Storytelling event will be December 5th at Arboretum Cohousing. The theme is Celebrate! Come tell us about your celebrations and things worth celebrating.
Are you interested in having a story night in your neighborhood? Find a venue and let us know about it. We love to tell stories all over Madison. Give us your ideas: madisonstorytells at gmail dot com.
And here are the full stories from our I Thought I Was Going to Die event! Most of them anyway. In our post from earlier today I alluded to the number of stories recorded not being equal to the number of stories told. Sadly, I totally messed up by forgeting to clear the memory card on our recorder. That means we ran out of room and missed the excellent stories told by John, Matt, Annie (with Théo), Sam, this guy, and this lady (sorry I don’t know your names this guy and this lady, but I’ve been telling your stories to everyone I meet for the past week if that makes up for it at all). I feel like an ass because I loved the stories that weren’t recorded. I’m sorry I missed recording them, but at least I got to hear them once. I guess we can all learn a lesson about always going to story nights so you don’t completely miss out on really good, funny, and insightful stories.
Here are the stories we did get. Which are also good stories. In the past we’ve hosted the stories on Mix Cloud and then put together a playlist. We’re not doing that anymore since Mix Cloud is weird and doesn’t let you search backwards in the story. Now we’re just giving you individual players for each track AND DOWNLOAD LINKS! Which some of you have been clamoring for. It only takes one to clamor after all. It’s why there is more clamoring than tangoing.
Growing Cedar by Laurel Bastian
The Names Have Been Changed But the Problems are Real by Peter Boger
Accidental Waifest by Adam Rostad
There are No Coincidences by Steel Wagstaff
Something That Happened to Me Today by Glen Frieden
Princess in the Graveyard by Alison Ahlgrim
If you are really disappointed that your story didn’t get recorded you can contact us and we can set up a time to record your story. I’d love to come record your story because it is a good story and you should be proud of it. Everyone should hear it and since literally everyone comes to our site at least once a day we can make sure everyone does hear it.
We’ll let you know when and where the next story night is real soon.
Our very first podcast.
Everyone! We’re getting into this podcast thing, you may have heard of it. Every month we’ll make a podcast of clips from all of the stories that were told, or recorded in this case, but more on that later. We’ll put them all together in to a sort of exquisite corpse and send it out to everyone because everyone probably wants to hear these stories. This is just a preview of the night, like when you get your 10 second preview at your mp3 purchasing website of choice. The full stories will also be posted here. So without anything further, here is our very first podcast.
Right click to download.
There are a lot of people telling stories from their own lives at the Wisconsin Book Festival this year. The festival starts on Thursday and since you’re all very busy folks we collected some of the events involving the kinds of stories we tell at our events into one pithy list for you.
BARRACUDA IN THE ATTIC
10/16/2014 – 5:00pm
Central Library – The Bubbler
DELANCEY: A MAN, A WOMAN, A RESTAURANT, A MARRIAGE
10/16/2014 – 6:30pm
The Kitchen Gallery
DARING: MY PASSAGES
10/17/2014 – 7:30pm
Central Library – Community Room
SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES: AND OTHER LESSONS FROM THE CREMATORY
10/17/2014 – 9:00pm
Central Library – Community Room
10/18/2014 – 11:00am
Room of One’s Own
MY FAMILY AND OTHER HAZARDS
10/18/2014 – 12:00pm
Wisconsin Historical Museum
10/18/2014 – 1:30pm
Central Library – The Bubbler
PHOTOS FROM HOME
Michael Forster Rothbart Danny Wilcox Frazier Scott Strazzante
10/19/2014 – 11:00am
Overture Center for the Arts – Promenade Hall
You should also check out the Monsters of Poetry on Friday and Nerd Nite on Saturday because those are both beautiful efforts being put forth by people right here in Madison. Also, their regular events don’t conflict with our regular events! You can do so much in this town! Get out there and do it all! Include our next story night on October 24th at 7 pm at Arboretum Cohousing as part of the all that you are out there doing. Make sure to have a truly harrowing experience before the 24th so you can come tell us about it.