A look back on Arizona Storytellers 2022 and what’s to come next

Arizona Storytellers began in 2011 at a Mill Avenue pizza joint. Some folks came for the stories, others for the pepperoni and beer.

In 2022, more than 400 people packed the Tempe Center for the Arts for each of the series’ six shows. The post-COVID return to live events was a hit with attendees who generally loved the new permanent venue and the stories from community members about vacation adventures, food and family, neighbors, holidays and more.

What is Arizona Storytellers?

They are evenings of live, on-stage storytelling aimed at creating community and empathy through true stories told by people who live and work in Arizona. Editors and reporters from The Arizona Republic curate the shows, coaching 30 people last year to develop entertaining, compelling stories reflecting on different themes.

In 2022 − as we’ll do again in 2023 − the series kicked off in February with a “Love and Heartbreak” theme.

Software engineer Diana Dinshaw tells a story during the Arizona Storytellers Project: “Growing Up” show at the Tempe Center for the Arts on April 13, 2022.
Michael Chow/The Republic

It was followed in April with a “Growing Up”-themed show featuring software engineer and Pakistan native Diana Dinshaw, who told of the goals her father set for her at a time and in a country where women lacked basic liberties. “He truly was my protector and his actions were meant to keep me safe and to learn to be independent,” said the north Phoenix resident.

Attendees become like family, attending show after show and bringing friends and relatives each time.

Megan Finnerty, a then-Republic reporter, founded Arizona Storytellers as a passion project and continues to be involved today. Success can be largely attributed to our ongoing partnership with the Storytelling Institute at South Mountain Community College, led by Liz Warren.

“When people feel empowered to tell their stories and others feel excited about listening, a community changes. People feel closer to each other. They feel more accepting of those unlike themselves. They feel more connected to their city and the people in it,” Finnerty said.

Arizona Storytellers founder Megan Finnerty greets the crowd during Arizona Storytellers show at Tempe Center for the Arts on Dec.  14, 2022, at Tempe.Arizona Storytellers founder Megan Finnerty greets the crowd during Arizona Storytellers show at Tempe Center for the Arts on Dec. 14, 2022, at Tempe.
Antranik Tavitian/The Republic

All of 2022’s shows featured Republic journalists as storytellers or emcees.

Closed-captioning for the nights is provided for free through a partnership with the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

During COVID lockdowns, the shows went virtual. However, the return of in-person storytelling has received raves from attendees:

  • “I subscribe to the paper, and it just reinforced that we all have a story to tell in an honest and open format.”
  • “On the drive home my wife and I tried to relate each speaker’s story to our own lives and had a lot of fun doing so. What a great evening of fun!”
  • “Loved it − so loved it! subtitles are a huge help. Thank you for such amazing entertainment and your role in helping to bring back a lost art at a price even teachers can afford!”
  • “I appreciate the Arizona Republic and azcentral.com … reminding us there are all kinds of stories, not just politics and wars and endless crises that fill most of our days. Thanks to all for a very enjoyable reminder.”
  • “Love that (The Republic staffers) don’t just support, but also generate, the arts!”

Tickets and themes for 2023 shows will be available at storytellersproject.com.

Storytelling spinoffs spotlight affordable housing issues

A series of live events turned the spotlight on affordable housing issues in Yuma, Flagstaff and Greater Phoenix with live storytelling and presentations from ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy.

Each of the 2022 events examined hyper-local housing issues in the three areas and encouraged support of housing relief efforts by the Arizona Community Foundation. The series was a spinoff of the Arizona Storytellers series, evenings of live storytelling by members of the community. Get tickets to upcoming Storytellers events at storytellersproject.com.

The evenings were organized by The Republic in partnership with the Yuma Sun and Flagstaff Business News and with NPR affiliates in Yuma and Flagstaff.

Published 3:33 pm UTC Jan 8, 2023
Updated 3:33pm UTC Jan 8, 2023

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