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Rockstar Storytellers welcome new members, ready fifth season

This weekend, the Rockstar Storytellers launch into their new season with a showcase and a pair of new members. Second thing first: Joining the gang for the fifth season are Rob Callahan (Jagercon quiz master, author of Hellbound Snowballs and Grave Whisperer) and Maggie Ryan Sandford (ComedyCentral.com, the Onion's A/V Club, and Paper Darts). The kick-off performance, The Best of the S#it We Did, comes to the Bryant-Lake Bowl Sunday, July 24.What's next? We asked one of the managing directors, Courtney McLean for the skinny.

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How did the last season of Rockstar Storytellers go, and what did you learn from the experience?

This last season was a fantastic ride. We had a lot of fun pulling in a bunch of guests stars each performance to play with the Rockstars. We expanded the actual concept of our shows to include competition, duo-storytelling, and even multimedia.  What we learned is that the Twin Cities' performing arts community has a load of great storytellers in it, and we're happy to have them on our stage. We also learned that our own Rockstars are getting busier and busier with their own projects, which is exactly what we want.

What can audiences expect from this year? Will there be things that are different? Or will things mostly remain the same?

This upcoming year will bring more awesome storytelling, so that won't change. Since we're about to start our fifth season, we've discovered shows we really love doing and what sells well, so we plan to stick with some of the broader themes, but tweak them to give them the Rockstar edge. We're going to do some experiments with live music, audience participation, and elements that will make the shows more entertaining. I personally would like to memorize my stories and I hope that inspires others to do so, too. Although, it's definitely not a requirement for our shows; it's not frowned upon to use notes. Also, we're only going to be doing five shows next year instead of our usual 10. And we'll have more glitter and sequins, because both of those things make Allison and me, the current managing directors, really happy. 

Why did you expand the group and what will the new members bring to the table?

We didn't expand by just adding numbers, but by adding some members that can be really involved. Since the Rockstars are beginning to age a little, life changes are happening to us: some members are moving out of state, growing families, so they weren't able to be as involved. Some members switched to founding member status, which means they will always be able to perform with us, but it probably won't happen very often. We decided to include some new blood that was equally awesome.

Rob Callahan and Maggie Ryan Sandford have been great guest members, and the group is hoping to add some of their charms to the line-ups. Rob and Maggie are also involved with the literary scene outside of the Fringe, where all the original Rockstars were brought together, so they'll bring with them a new demographic too.

In general, what do you see from the storytelling "scene" in the Twin Cities--is it growing? If so, what do you think is fueling that growth?

It's an amazing time to be a storyteller in the Twin Cities. There are so many new shows popping up all over town. Allison is wrapping up the first season of Story SlamMN! which is like our own version of The Moth in the cities. Our Word Ninjas Open Mic list always fills up, and there is usually a decent-sized audience just there to watch. There's Tellabration, the annual event hosted by Northstar Storytelling League that is always teaming with storytellers and their fans. Storytellers are more frequently being used as entertainers at banquets, awards ceremonies, opening for bands, in head-to-head combat against slam poets, and more. 
 
I think part of what is fueling the growth is storytellers who are migrating between events and scenes, and are integrating into things. Can we tell stories at an art opening? Sure. Can we compete? Yep. Can we entertain? Absolutely. There is also the rising of the D.I.Y. art and publishing scene in the cities that is finding out that it's cool to put a performance aspect to written words. We keep building relationships, and it just keeps growing. And pretty much every kind of live spoken performance is a version of storytelling, so it's something in which comedians, poets, actors, and other spoken word artists can participate.  

IF YOU GO:

The Best of the S#it We Did

Sunday, July 24

Bryant-Lake Bowl

$12, 7 p.m.