Elise Pepple of Hear Tell: “Storytelling is a democratic art; it is a renewable resource.”


Hear Tell is a monthly live storytelling event organized by Elise Pepple. Crush[ed] is the theme of the next episode, which takes place this evening (doors at 7) at Tandem Bakery (on 742 Congress).

According to Pepple, she wanted the theme “to be about love because it’s February” but “didn’t want it to be too sappy. So what you’re going to hear is 5 people tell roughly 8 minute stories. It could be a crush that they had, or a time they were crushed in a romantic situation. Really, the theme is a handhold and it can go anywhere from there.”

Storytellers will include Patrick Carey, Spencer Albee, Joel Beauchamp and Gennea Cherichello. There will be beer and wine and money made at the event will to Sub/Merge, a queer dance party at Flask, and Portland Outright, an LGBTQ youth organization.

I talked with Pepple about the origins of her love for storytelling.


How’d Hear Tell come about about?

My favorite thing is storytelling, specifically live storytelling like The Moth. I have lived in a bunch of places and hosted this kind of thing in the various towns that I’ve lived in. When I moved to Portland, I saw that the Telling Room has their great [storytelling] series but it only happens twice a year and I need [a more regular fix], and so I decided to start this series. It’s kind of like the less-formal cousin [of those events] that also curses.

What do you find is the role of storytelling in the lives of people? Particularly people who might otherwise never use the word “storytelling”?

I am in the business of social work and I think we have to redefine a lot of concepts. The core principals that I don’t find problematic about social work are these ideas that people desire a sense of belonging and meaning. I am always wondering, “So what are our really rad tools [for developing] a sense of belonging and a sense of meaning?” Both inter-personally and personally and on all levels, micro and macro. I really feel like storytelling is one of the greatest tools. It is a democratic art. It is a renewable resource; there’s always more. Everybody has stories.

I really kind of think about these kinds of events—I think about it as macro narrative therapy… And this is the heady answer. There’s also the less heady answer, which is just that I love it. But I think that when we get to know people based on their stories, we become more connected to them. I have a vested interest in my neighbors caring more about each other and me caring more about my neighbors.

How have the events been received?

My friend Sena works at [the consignment shop] Material Objects. People know her because she is awesome and she works there and then she tells this beautiful story and people come in and say, “Hey, I loved your story. I’m glad I got to hear it.” They know her differently. I love that.

I’m always looking for triple wins. Like “what’s the win-win-win in this situation?” I think one win is having fun events happen in Portland, another win is having that kind of moment where a storyteller does something kind of brave. The third is that new people come to form connections with strangers.

We live in this self-helpy therapy culture, which clearly I am into. But I think the most radical thing with storytelling is about celebrating exactly how beautiful and flawed all of us are, exactly as we are, without changing. I think it’s a pretty radical thing to stand and be proud in what may be this hot mess of a situation. I’m a big fan of failure and acknowledging that failure. It is where we spend a lot of time and tell a lot of good stories.

Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.