September marks the first birthday of Double-Edged Stories, an integral part of Louisville’s robust and versatile storytelling scene. The event has won a faithful audience with its unique structure and charming hosts Randi Skaggs and David Serchuk.
The married couple — both multi-Moth award-winning storytelling powerhouses — also conceived and produces Double-Edged. And they’re celebrating the show’s first year by throwing an extra special “Double-Edged Stories Anniversary Spectacular” on Saturday, Sept. 22
In addition to the regularly schedule program, the “spectacular” will include a party with cake and, earlier in the day, these award-winning tale-spinners will host a workshop to impart their accrued wisdom on the art of oration.
It seems obvious in hindsight that Doubled-Edged would be a hit, but at the start, Skaggs had jitters.
“We weren’t even sure it was going to work and happen. And with the first show, you never know,” she tells Insider Louisville. “If three or four people show up, is this going to fizzle out?”
Serchuk says that even though they were concerned at first about audience size, they where always confident of one thing.
“Even if we only had 10 people, I was confident we’d do a great show for those 10 people,” he says.
The duo rolled the dice, and since their first event — held in the downstairs lounge at The Bard’s Town — Double-Edged has been a consistent success.
Each iteration of the bimonthly series features dueling themes like “Birds of a Feather/Flying Solo” and “Begin the Begin/Closing Time.” Each half of the evening-length show features a five-minute story, a 10-minute story and a 15-minute story. It gives Doubled-Edged a uniquely satisfying flow — like a great meal or an excellent piece of theater.
Serchuk believes the success comes from how much Louisvillians love taking in and telling tales.
“The storytelling community is strong here, the audience really cares about the stories, and we have many people here who are able to tell great stories,” he says.
The audience was so supportive that after four shows, Double-Edged had to find a bigger home. They moved to the upstairs room at Monnik Beer Co., which holds more than a 100 people — about twice as many as their previous space.
“Were we thinking, boy, this may be us tempting fate … but the first show was quite full, and the next show was very full. And we’re really hoping that trend will continue,” says Serchuk.
With the show’s success and with its one-year mark approaching, the couple decided to take another gamble and offer workshops in the art of storytelling. The workshop is based on curriculum Skaggs developed for her work in education, where, among other duties as a teacher, she’s taught storytelling to other teachers.
Skaggs says this workshop is for any experience level.
“It’s for people who just started in storytelling,” she explains. “We’re going to have a lot of newcomers who have never told a story before but always wanted to try, and we’re also going to have some people who have done this before, but they want some new ideas. (They’ll) learn the components of good storytelling — how to choose a good story, how to develop a story, how to find where your focus is.”
The class starts with listening to a few great stories and figuring out what makes them so great. Skaggs offers one concrete piece of advice, which she says she heard first at The Moth.
“High stakes,” she says. “If the story matters a lot to the storyteller, it will matter a lot to the audience.”
Attendees of the workshop also get a ticket to the show, themed “NSFW (Not Safe For Work)/Back to School.”
“We try to do things that are related but not other sides of a coin,” says Serchuk. “Like, we wouldn’t do ‘Black/White.’ I think that would be a little stale.”
This show pairs a new theme with an older theme that Serchuk says is a favorite.
“Randi’s idea was ‘Back to School’ and — because it’s such a great idea — that’s kind of a gimme. And I kind of insisted on ‘Not Safe for Work’ because that’s what we did a year ago, and I kind of like it when people tell stories that are self-incriminating,” he explains.
In the next year, Skaggs and Serchuk will keep the same bimonthly schedule and will consider teaching more frequent workshops if there is a demand.
Serchuk stresses one last thing.
“We really encourage people who might not see themselves in a storytelling show to please consider us a place they can come and apply,” he says.
Skaggs adds, “We have had people tell their first story ever in our show.”
The Double-Edged Stories Workshop runs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 22, at Monnik, 1036 E. Burnett Ave. The price is a sliding-fee scale of $30-$50 and includes entry to the show. The “Anniversary Spectacular: NSFW/Back to School” starts at 8 p.m. that same night at Monnik. Tickets are $10.
The show has a fantastic lineup, including Mike the Dentist, Sally M. Evans, Mary Jo Radcliff Ives, Billy Goldsmith, Beau Davis, NeNe Lasley and comedian Mandee McKelvey. The evening also features special musical guest Heidi Howe.