BY MICHAEL STAHL
On Thursday, Nov. 12 at 7:30 p.m., Q.E.D. on 23rd Avenue between 27th Street and 28th Street in Astoria will be the setting for another edition of “Talk Therapy.”
It’s a storytelling show that welcomes established performers as well as fresh newbies to recite revealing tales of time spent in psychoanalysis along with anecdotes detailing their efforts in facing mental health challenges.
The series is among the venue’s longest running shows, having been produced each month since the performance space’s opening one year ago. Audience members can anticipate woven narratives certain to provide a dash of humor, a sprinkle of sadness, and a twist of inspiration for good measure.
Organized by Lori Baird, a multiple winner of the famed Moth storytelling competition, the show provides a safe place for people to talk freely about their mental health struggles while vulnerably on display—an activity that has proven more often cathartic than embarrassing for its participants who are frequently offered support and praise for their bravery. “We get such amazing stories,” said Baird, who is a full-time copywriter by day. “I’m always so grateful to have people share them. I love the show. It’s more important to me than my regular job.”
At various points in her life, Baird, a Pennsylvania native who now resides in Astoria, yearned to perform, but had difficulty combating stage fright and deciding on a comfortable medium.
Then, in 2008, a friend brought her to experience the Moth. “Storytelling seemed scary, but not too scary,” she recalled. Baird tried it out one night soon thereafter. “I told a story about having an ‘accident’ while having sex,” she said coyly. “I won my very first time, and then [the Moth] used my story on the podcast.” Invigorated by the positive feedback, she decided to perform a second time, armed with a more serious tale about dealing with body issues in therapy that were spurred on by chastising remarks from her own mother during childhood. Sure enough, she won the competition again.
“It was unlike anything I’d experienced,” Baird said. “I wanted to do it again and I thought ‘Talk Therapy’ would be a really powerful way for people to hear stories about mental health.”
She added that when she founded the show in 2011 another goal was to inform audience members about psychological disorders, and break down social stigmas associated with them. “The person sitting next to them [at ‘Talk Therapy’] might appear very normal, but they may suffer from a mental health problem. They’re ok though; they’re not broken. Their anxiety, depression or whatever they may face just might manifest itself in certain ways,” she said.
The evening’s format opens with a comedian before giving way to two featured performers, helping keep things upbeat, at least out the outset. In one of the first-ever “Talk Therapy” presentations, Baird said back-to-back stories about suicide kicked things off. “That set a little too dark of a tone,” she said. There’s an intermission and then the open mic volunteers get their time to shine—six minutes each to be exact.
“The open mic performers at times have been equally as impressive as the featured performers,” Baird declared. They’ll have their work cut out for them this Thursday though. Stephen Leslie, a hospice chaplain, is one of the featured performers. He has assumed that esteemed position at the Moth before, while Margot Leitman, who literally wrote the book on storytelling, Long Story Short, is the other booked guest.
“I have a few stories that fit the [“Talk Therapy”] theme,” said Leitman, who’s in from Los Angeles and has taught the art of storytelling around the world, says. “[The audience will] hear something probably darkly funny and incredibly revealing that doesn’t paint me in the most perfect light.”
For more information, visit the venue’s official website www.qedastoria.com. Admission for the show is $5. Doors at 7 p.m.