Tell Tale

Odyssey Storytelling returns to the Screening Room with seven stories of doing it yourself

Here's a concept that works:

Put a half-dozen people onstage and have each tell a 10-minute story that references a theme, be it "Contradictions," "Bridges," "Play," "Dirty Laundry," "Natural" or "Wheels." Repeat monthly.

Odyssey Storytelling, which debuted on Congress Street nearly a dozen years ago, will explore each of those themes in 2016, along with "Lost," "Fraught," "Strange," "Johns," "Again" and "D.I.Y."

First up for this year is seven storytellers riffing on "D.I.Y.," which you can see for yourself on Jan. 7 at the Screening Room.

"We try to choose themes that can be interpreted very broadly," says Penelope Starr, the founder and recently retired executive director of Odyssey Storytelling.

The troupe describes doing it yourself as "taking matters into your own hands...Self-realization. Self-esteem. Self-pleasure!"

Kate Long Hodges will tell a story about the Land with No Name, an alternative art space near Three Points. Hodges co-directs this outdoor "sanctuary for homeless sculpture" with her companion Ted Wade Springer.

"Ted created this place 10 years ago, and it's been a D.I.Y. spot from the beginning," she says. "It's located 35 miles southwest of Tucson on 25 acres of high desert grassland. It's at the end of a dirt road, surrounded by ranch land."

The Land with No Name features a trail that's home to more than 25 sculptures by 25 different artists, says Hodges.

"The trail we built is all made of pieces of concrete that otherwise would have gone to the dump. Everything out there is what's already there, like mesquite and oak and recycled materials."

Hodges has performed with Odyssey once before, telling a story several years ago at Hotel Congress about a near-death experience she had in Alaska. She had a ball, she says.

Jim Walmann, who describes himself as a retiree and a cheesehead, will also tell a personal D.I.Y. story, as will Doug Stevenson (president of Story Theatre International), attorney Troy Larkin and educator Lisa Grenier.

Starr will tell the story of her creating Odyssey and writing a book about the experience. Her book, Voices Uncensored: The Radical Act of Community Storytelling, is almost finished, Starr says.

"I hope to have it out and about in 2016," she says.

Frank Powers, a.k.a. Frank! Powers, is a Tucson cartoonist whose creations include Pissed Off Panda and King Congress.

His story for Odyssey, like all the others, is neither read nor memorized. It's about how he put together Constant Con, a downtown spot that sells only self-published comics.

"I'm sort of the Willy Wonka of the place," he says.

Powers, an Odyssey first-timer, also says that "storytelling is an art and something to share, and I've always believed that sharing is better than liking."

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