Storytellers share personal tales at (un)Spoken

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Sadie Smythe, left, and Julie Gillis, right, are producers for (un)Spoken. (un)Spoken is a live show in which participants share powerful personal stories as a form of emotional justice and community strengthening.
Photo Credit: Graeme Hamilton | Daily Texan Staff

Sadie Smythe walked across her back porch and settled in to a comfortable chair, opening a pack of cigarettes and taking a deep breath. She unfolded her notebook to a story she had been struggling to write for months: a tale of her addiction and the self-loathing that came with it.

Smythe will be one of four storytellers sharing her story Wednesday night at the Spider House Ballroom during (un)Spoken, a new series from the producers of BedPost Confessions — an Austin-based group that hosts live shows aimed to increase dialogues around sex. Whereas stories submitted to BedPost Confessions are often humorous and entertaining, (un)Spoken approaches more vulnerable, sensitive issues.

The themes of the first two (un)Spoken performances were “Losses and Gains” and “Betrayal.” This week’s theme, “Take Care,” will expose issues of emotional and bodily health. Producer Julie Gillis said (un)Spoken is a form of emotional justice, and her goal is to provide a platform for the audience to share their own stories.

“When you get to tell a story on stage, you’re releasing yourself from the power of the shame attached to the story, reconciling your role in that narrative and giving the audience permission to note, in their minds, similar situations,” Gillis said. “It helps [the audience] form a community and form a better pathway to finding the support they need.”

Smythe, also a producer for (un)Spoken and BedPost Confessions, said the shows demonstrate the power behind storytelling. She said she hopes talking about her own experiences with addiction will allow listeners to identify and reflect on their preconceived notions of addiction and to reconsider their perceptions.

“If I stand up and talk about my own journey with addiction, my hope is that other people will see either their own addicted selves or their family and friends’ addicted selves and not judge them as harshly as people invariably judge addictions,” Smythe said.

Addictions can include anything from drugs and alcohol to Facebook and exercise, Smythe said. Regardless, talking about addictions strips away part of their power.

“[My story] is not something I’ve never shared even in a group of close friends,” Smythe said. “But it’s my truth — a part of my past. Being able to say that in a safe space allows me to forgive myself for those choices.”

UT alumna and author Mo Daviau will also speak and plans to share her story about a previous emotionally abusive relationship with someone she believed had narcissistic personality disorder. Daviau said the relationship continued to haunt her, but, after reading an essay online written by one of her ex-boyfriend’s victims, she could finally begin the healing process.

“[Her essay] changed everything in my perspective,” Daviau said. “I stopped self-blaming. I started believing what my therapist and friends were telling me. I had to hear it from her, and I did.”

Lea Comte and Stefannie Clendenen will also perform. Comte will discuss her brother, mental illness and the absence of social support for families. Clendenen will talk about chronic illness, sexuality and finding health in balance.

After the performances, the audience will have a chance to write down and submit their own stories to be read aloud.

“[(un)Spoken has] a rawness and a vulnerability that is palpable — not in just the feeling and the energy in the room but also in the confessions,” Gillis said. “The confessions show us that there are a lot of people feeling a lot of things they need to talk about.”

(un)Spoken
Where: Spider House Ballroom
When: Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., doors open 7 p.m.
Admission: $10, all ages