You’ll probably laugh, and you just might do some crying into your beer.
The inaugural Tales & Ales storytelling night happens Friday, July 27, at Old Ox Brewery, a celebration of the power of stories to create community.
The event is the brainchild of Loudoun NowManaging Editor Danielle Nadler, who has collaborated with her longtime friend Susan Talbott to bring the project to life, inspired by the contemporary storytelling trend embodied in the beloved Moth Radio Hour series. Nadler and Talbott think Loudouners have some great stories to tell and want to invite them to step up to the microphone.
“There’s something absolutely beautiful about coming together face to face and hearing one another’s stories,” Talbott said. “A lot of times, you’re restricted to your own inner circle … but having the opportunity to hear other stories from people from different walks of life who have come from very different places is just an exceptional opportunity.”
The format puts individual storytellers in the spotlight, and the focus is on true stories and authenticity as six selected participants tell their tales in a relaxed, intimate setting at Ashburn’s Old Ox Brewery. And the event’s no-notes format ensures the right blend of craft and spontaneity.
“If you’re really being authentic and telling the truth, you shouldn’t have to look down,” said the event’s headliner Tom Sweitzer.
Sweitzer is well known to Loudouners as the co-founder and executive director of A Place to Be music therapy center in Middleburg, where he helps young people with physical and mental health challenges tell their stories through music and performance. He’s also used his own life story as fodder for a musical one-man show and a TEDx talk.
But the Tales & Ales format is new for Sweitzer and offers a chance to delve into details—with plenty of humor—into a story about the Christmas when he was 10 and his mother got him husky pants from Sears. Wearing those extra roomy trousers was a badge of shame of sorts in the ’70s, and Sweitzer says he always finds listeners who can identify with the experience. That sense of identification is at the core of the power of the story, he said.
“Why we do the storytelling we do at A Place to Be is to spread awareness and acceptance. Our big mission here at the center is to spread empathy,” Sweitzer said. “Maybe people will feel empathetic that I was a fat kid and hated those pants. But at the core of every character or really good story is an empathetic component, where we can identify with something in the story.”
Sweitzer will be joined by five other participants Nadler and Talbott selected from recorded submissions and phone auditions.
“They need to know what they’re going to say. They still need to have thought about their beginning, their middle and their end,” Talbott said. “But we want it to have that authentic feel … There’s just something so beautiful about the vulnerability, the spontaneity or even the surprise that comes with someone just speaking from their heart.”
The event also features the mother-and-son team of Samuel Moore-Sobel and Kate Moore. The 24-year-old Moore-Sobel was burned in an accident at age 15 and left with second and third degree burns on his face and permanent scarring.
Moore-Sobel has survived and thrived—he’s a homeowner in Leesburg, a George Mason grad and a program manager for Amazon Web Services. But there are still hurdles along the way nearly a decade later.
“It’s something that I’m grappling with all these years later even though I’m feeling really well and have what people would call a normal life and a successful one,” he said.
Moore-Sobel and Moore launched Holding onto Hope Today, an organization focused on changing the cultural perspective on scars, both physical and emotional, and recently finished the manuscript for a book about their experiences.
Like Sweitzer, the mother-and-son team regularly speak to groups, but the small-scale storytelling format is new to them. When they found out about Tales & Ales via social media, they jumped at the chance to share a slice of life story—in their case a tag team tale about something as simple as the trials of getting the right meds for a sinus infection.
“The goal is to take something from your personal experience and then have that resonate with other people as well as some entertainment and laughs along the way,” Moore-Sobel said.
The event organizers have plenty of stories themselves—but for now want others to take the spotlight. Nadler is a South Dakota native who now lives in Leesburg with her husband. In addition to her role as managing editor for Loudoun Now, she’s the author of Amazon best-selling non-fiction work “Without A Trace: The Life of Sierra Phantom” about a legendary California fishing guide and epic storyteller. Talbott, the daughter of a Baptist minister, is originally from Tennessee and now lives in Ashburn with her husband and two teenage children. She’s a former educator now in graduate school pursuing a degree in clinical mental health. The two women plan to make Tales & Ales an ongoing series—and may step up to the mic themselves down the road. First and foremost, they want the event to invite everyday Loudouners to share their stories.
“One thing I understand very much is that everyone has a story,” Talbott said. “We’re not necessarily going for people who are already out there sharing their stories all over the place. We’re looking for those quieter stories that haven’t been heard. … Everyone has so many stories within them, but because they’re your own stories, sometimes it’s hard to recognize the beauty in them or what makes them so interesting. … It’s important to step back and recognize that you have stories that people need and want to hear.”
Tales & Ales is 7-9 p.m. Friday, July 27, at Old Ox Brewery, 44652 Guilford Dr #114, in Ashburn. Learn more at Facebook.com/LoCoTalesandAles.