Misunderstanding—now there’s a theme to which everyone can relate. The fourth incarnation of La Chispa, a live storytelling event held on March 1, offered storytellers a platform to share tales of malentendidos with an audience gathered at Atelier Café de la Llana in Lavapies. La Chispa takes its inspiration from The Moth, an organization that hosts storytelling events across the globe and radio and podcast editions as well. La Chispa’s coordinator, Natasha Yaworsky, gave birth to the idea of hosting a Moth-like event in Madrid after listening to many of the organization’s programs. “The stories are always good,” she explained when asked why The Moth had become an auditory staple in her life, “no matter what,” she added.
As event organizer Dan Catalan (featured in the photo above) put it, a “passionate and clever little team” started La Chispa and has been keeping it running since September of this year. Animation student Diego Salas joins Yaworksy and Catalan to round out the co-founding group. The three started working on the idea for the event and from there, according to Salas, “our support network, friends, everyone stepped up to help.” After wandering around Lavapies, it was decided that Atelier Café de la Llana was the most qualified space, and owner Enrique de la Llana was willing to offer the setting as a background for the event.
At the most recent event, the theme of malentendidos produced narratives that produced laughs. Catalan explained, “there is always a theme to the events, but it is purposely vague so that storytellers have freedom to take it and run with it.” What better theme than malentendidos for a gathering with an audience heavily comprised of expats for whom life is a landmine of misunderstandings when daily interactions must be carried out in a foreign language? Not only are the themes meant to be broad, they are also meant to be widely relatable. One story, dealt with a series of business interactions ridden with misunderstanding due to language difference. There was a moving account focusing on the themes of identity and acceptance all through an account of being misunderstood as a famous Asian prostitute while at a dance club in Tel Aviv. Another wove an elaborate saga about a misunderstanding that happened years ago in a summer camp bathroom. The stories ran the gamut, each with their own flair and intrigue.
Storytellers participating in La Chispa are asked to keep their tales between 8 and 10 minutes. To mark the time, harmonica player extraordinaire, Diana Dwyer, alerted the speakers when their spot is about to end. If the harmonica sounds (pun-intended) kitschy, it did not seem at all out of place at the event. It was just another piece of the patchwork.
Inside the space, chairs were so crammed into the small cafe space that when one person would get up, another person would sit down in their chair, which also added to the collective ambience of the event. The pre-show period became a bit like a game of musical chairs, but what better way to circulate and share some of your own stories except not in front of a mic?
At La Chispa: Malentendidos, expats comprised most of the crowd, but according to various event-goers, the audience makeup has been different with each go-around. Yaworsky remarked that she liked the idea of hosting the event in Madrid because of its potential to “offer a middle ground to English and Spanish speakers.” Storytellers may tell their accounts in either English or Spanish (as long as they tell them without notes) and the pre-selected themes guarantee that speakers of either language will relate. The organizers expressed a desire for more Spanish storytellers to come forward and have their voices heard.
Another hope for future events is for the event to showcase stories from a broader range of perspectives, specifically and to have participants from a wider range of ages. Yaworsky’s ultimate goal for the project is to have The Moth come to Madrid and host an official event.
In the meantime, the event coordinators want to encourage storytellers—seasoned and burgeoning alike—to share their stories at upcoming events. The organizers were quick to acknowledge that the general public may think that they cannot tell a story, but were even quicker to offer assurances that story tellers will receive ample assistance in preparing for the event.
Once the story tellers have committed, the event organizers host workshops to rehearse the stories, hash out details, and give performers the chance to work out how exactly they want to spin their tales. At the workshops, storytellers hear feedback on how to crystalize the three main parts of the story: the beginning, conflict, and end as well as receive tips on how to “pretzel” or tie it all together. The theme for the next scheduled La Chispa has been set for ‘Las desgracias nunca vienen solas’ or ‘When it rains, it pours.”
The event will be held on Sunday, April 5 at 9 pm. Both storytellers and story-listeners are welcome. Yet another event is planned for Sunday, May 3. Keep an eye out for posters designed by Salas advertising the event. In the words of the event’s mastermind Nastasha Yaworksy: The more you listen, the more you realize that you have a story to tell. The photographic services company, Imagimedia, was on site to video record the event and the stories will be available for viewing on YouTube and Facebook.