Meet Hillary Rea, Founder of Tell Me A Story.
Eight years ago, I wanted to be a stand-up comedian. I booked a few shows, and performed, thinking "Hey, I like this! People are laughing! They must like me too!" But I wasn’t just delivering set-up punchline, after set-up punchline. My material was always one single story from my life. Yes, they were comedic, but there was more to it. Then I discovered the whole storytelling movement in New York City and everything clicked. I became a huge storytelling nerd (The Moth, Story Collider, This American Life, Upright Citizen's Bridgade's "Oh Hey Guys", etc.) It was this new found love that motivated me to start my own company.
Although it was fun sharing stories from my own life, I really found a lot more joy in helping other people tell their stories. When I first grew Tell Me A Story from a bi-monthly live event to a company that offers workshops and coaching, I had the opportunity to work with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project on their annual fundraiser. They were honoring the sister and the lawyer of a woman who had been in prison for 42 years for a crime she didn’t commit.
I worked with both the sister and lawyer to piece together the stories that they were telling at this event. The night before the fundraiser, everyone got the news that this woman had been exonerated. No one was expecting the this outcome, or the timing of it. And now her sister and her lawyer had new endings to their stories. Seeing all of their hard preparation combined with this new sense of freedom, made each story come to life in a new way. All of the storytelling work that they did in advance served as a backbone, but live in front of an audience, each storyteller delivered their message through a lens of authenticity.
Yes, there is a lot of work that goes into telling a story, but it’s those spontaneous moments, those shifts in the narrative when you are actually in front of the audience, that allow the storyteller and the listener to come together and connect on a deeper level.
Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. More and more people are interacting with other humans through screens only. FaceTime. Tinder. GoToMeeting. Talkspace. Friends stop making plans with each other and assume they know what's going on with everyone in their social circle. These assumptions are based on what is posted to Instagram and Facebook. These are mythical stories narrated by the digital divide.
People need words. They need to hear them out loud. They need to hear them in-person. As we disconnect -- from our community and ourselves -- face-to-face storytelling is vital.
Thanks for listening,
1. Did you know that Hillary is an audio documentarian? She is in pre-production with a brand new podcast, Rashomon, and currently enrolled in Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies certificate program.
Listen to this audio story that she created for M.I.T's Undark podcast.
2. Hillary grew up in Philadelphia and attended The Philadelphia School and Central High School (259). She moved to New York City for college and received a Bachelor's of Music in Vocal Performance from New York University. After a few years in NYC, Hillary moved to Japan to teach English through the Jet Programme. She lived on the snowy island of Hokkaido and flew home to Philadelphia with 8 boxes of belongings and a Japanese cat. Scroll down to watch Hillary tell a story about an elementary school science project.