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Storytellers Leap into the Fray

Fray Day 6 at the Victoria Theatre

Derek Powazek doesn't think you have to be a literary giant to tell a story that's powerful, vivid and worth being heard. Enter Fray Day, now in its sixth incarnation, a storytelling event designed to get people involved and communicating about their own lives.

Brought to you by the storytelling website, {fray}, Fray Day is an annual event that takes place in cities all around the world on the same weekend. Each event features interactive art, featured performers and a storytelling open mic. Powazek's goal for the event is to take an impulse as old as humankind and revitalize it with new energy and direction. In other words, this isn't a library story hour -- according to Powazek, this is "definitely very adult."

Fray Day started as a website, created in the adrenaline aftermath of Burning Man. Pictures of Burning Man installations were posted on the site, along with a simple guestbook to record each viewer's impressions of the event. The site blossomed into a storytelling community, no longer focused solely on Burning Man, but exploring any and all aspects of contemporary life. Then, in 1998, it went live.

Powazek explains that the classic case of "virtual" anonymity, in which people take on all sorts of false and sometimes fraudulent online identities, has its powerful opposite: online, people are free to be themselves more fully, to tell stories that are honest and courageous. Still, he wanted to bring all this energy into the "real world," so he organized the first live Fray Day.

Just like the original site, the live event exceeded expectations and took off, soon spreading all over the country and the world as Fray fans started their own hometown Fray Days in places as far away as Australia and South America. Fray Day 6 will be celebrated in Austin, Cambridge, El Paso, Grand Rapids, San Francisco, Tucson, Washington DC and Los Angeles; international locations include Mariana Islands (Guam), Melbourne (Australia) and Copenhagen (Denmark).

This year, Fray Day in San Francisco will be occupying somewhat classier digs at the Victoria Theater. Will a posh interior change the amateur energy of the Fray? No, but Powazek does agree that it will be "less of a party, more of a storytelling performance ... having it in a theater legitimizes [the event]."

Also new this year is live music at Fray Day, which will round out the storytelling: two local bands, From Monument to Masses and Dealership, will take the stage. From Monument to Masses even hopes to sample previous clips of Fray readings to create a musical tribute to past gatherings.

San Francisco storytellers include Lance Arthur, Jack Boulware, Justin Chin, Kevin Smokler, Heather Champ, Laura Fraser, Brad Graham, Justin Hall, Joe Loya, Derek Powazek, Magdalen Powers and Shauna Wright.

Fray Day is about more than just allowing storytellers to meet and swap tales in the real world -- it hopes to challenge the literary community with new models of inclusiveness and accessibility. The web is, Powazek concludes, "the ultimate self-publishing platform." The web geeks and the poets, he feels, have a lot to learn from each other.

Fray Day 6
September 14, 2002 @ 7 pm to midnight
Victoria Theatre, San Francisco
$10 - $15, sliding scale
For more information, contact Derek Powazek at [email protected], 415.564.4485