Story District, a non-profit organization that teaches the art of autobiographical storytelling of diverse voices within the Washington D.C. region and beyond, has two Valentine’s Day shows planned with content that touches on falling in love, heartbreak and everything in between. They reach an audience of more than 12,000 patrons, 200 aspiring storytellers and 300 adult learners each year through their classes, performances, podcast and consulting.
On February 11th, Story District will celebrate their 15th Annual Valentine’s Day Special with Sucker for Love at the Lincoln Theater. The yearly show recounts true stories told live about romance gone wrong, make-ups, break-ups, first times, last times, and everything in between. Tickets can be purchased here. Following that performance, on February 14th, they will present Worst Date Ever, their fifth annual anti-Valentine’s Day contest at the Howard Theater. Storytellers will complete at their chance to be named the 2023 Worst Date Ever. The winner is selected by audience votes after everyone has shared their humorous and sometimes heart wrenching bad date stories. Tickets can be purchased here.
Forbes spoke with Story District’s Executive Director Amy Saidman about what audience members can expect from these shows. We also discussed what Saidman is most looking forward to out of these performances and how they first came about.
Risa Sarachan: Both of these shows sound incredibly fun. How did the concepts come about?
Amy Saidman: The first Sucker for Love took place in 2008 at Chief Ike’s Mambo Room, an Adams Morgan institution, till it closed in 2015. We had been running our monthly open mic series for over ten years at that point and wanted to add some curated shows. Romance is one of the most universal experiences, so it was an easy choice. Plus, it’s easier to get coverage of a show like this around a holiday. It makes it newsworthy. And back then, we couldn’t rely on social media.
Sarachan: What are you most looking forward to with this year’s shows?
Saidman: I’m happy about the line-ups for both shows. Each of them will have stories that take the audience in unexpected directions and showcase diverse life experiences.
Sarachan: In past years, did any specific stories from these shows stick with you?
Saidman: The Worst Date Ever stories really stick with you because they are often shocking and sometimes utterly appalling. Colleen’s date told her he’d fallen in love with someone else and then tried to sell her insurance. Jude’s date lured her to New Jersey (New Jersey!) for a pyramid scam. I thought I had had bad dates, but I have a totally different perspective after hearing years of mortifying stories like these.
Over the last 14 years, we’ve showcased more than 100 stories! Sakina’s was a favorite – she told the story of how she and her parents attempted to use an elaborate point system and spreadsheets to find her perfect mate. Nupe told a story about how he met his wife, then Laura followed with a story about how she met her husband. There’s a point in Laura’s story when the audience connected the dots and realized they are spouses, sharing the same story from different perspectives. The reaction was priceless.
Sarachan: What do you think it is about heartbreak and love stories that always makes them so riveting?
Saidman: For a story to work, there must be something at stake, and when it comes to love, the stakes are high. Our sense of self, need for affection, companionship, security, validation, and sex is all at risk. Our hopes for the life we want to live, the family we want to create, and the home we want to build are all on the line. Even when it comes to one, simple, bad date. Every date starts with hope. And when you have hope, it means there’s something you want, something that matters, and so, there is a lot at stake.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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