Everyone has a great story or two in their back pocket. These tales get bandied about as icebreakers at parties and are told so many times that they end up as an extension of someone’s name. “Oh you’ve gotta meet Michael, he tells the greatest story about stealing an apple from Prince Harry!” If someone is lucky enough to be part of an extraordinary situation, they can usually regurgitate the information to create an extraordinary story. But a true storyteller is able to bring the listener in and make even the most mundane slice of life seem out of this world. Gettin’ It is a show full of true storytellers.
Produced and Directed by Julia Cotton, Gettin’ It is a showcase for some of the best storytellers in Dallas. Every show revolves around a different theme that inspires each cast member to reflect on their life and prepare a true story. They combine together to form an hour long show that is hilarious, tragic, uplifting, serious, light and engaging throughout.
I spoke with the cast to learn more about their process, which stories they’ve enjoyed listening to and why Julia is just about the best person in the world.
The theme of this show is Heavyweights. If a brawl broke out between you all (Heaven forbid!), who do you think would come out on top?
- Casey- Heaven shouldn’t forbid a brawl between the Gettin’ It cast. A cage match between us would be quality Pay Per View entertainment. I’m not sure who’d win but we’d put on a great show.
- Ellen- I can confidently say Sydney. Her self-confidence could defeat anything.
- Devon- Julia and she would do it without having to hit a soul.
- Dana- Totally Devon. She scares me but in a good way. I want to be the bear cub to her mama grizzly.
- Julia- I tend to think if a brawl broke out, at some point everyone would stop to analyze emotions and try to get to the "why" of it all.
Gettin’ It has now been around for two and a half years. Are there any stories, that others have shared, that stick out to you?
- Dana- There are so many, but the one that stands out to me is the only story I've heard twice and it's one Julia tells about her daughter falling and getting hurt. The first time I heard it, it was a cute story about a chaotic trip to the emergency room but the second time it was a serious story about how she felt like a failure as a mother. I think that's when it hit me that the power of a story is not in the series of events, but in how you tell it.
- Julia- Devon told an INCREDIBLE story about seeing a ghost and it was one of the most powerful performances I've ever seen. I loved her already, but watching her tell this story it made me understand even more why I do.
- Casey- Devon once told a story about sleep-induced hallucinations that made me laugh, cry, and pick my jaw up off the floor.
- Ellen- Easy. Devon's story about her nightmares was SO good.
- Devon- At the Dallas Comedy Festival last year, Julia told a story about going to meet up with friends and some obstacles she had to overcome on the way to that get together. The premise of the story was so simple but it created this beautiful moment on stage where her voice was so strong that I was totally engrossed in the moment. She also had an amazing twist end that made me laugh harder than I've laughed in any show since. It really represented what I love most about storytelling, which is the ability to highlight what may seem like mundane experiences and dig into them with the storyteller's unique perspective. I think that type of work is nothing short of magic.
In addition to storytelling, many of you perform improv, stand-up and/or sketch in the area. What do you feel like separates storytelling into its own art? What can you do in storytelling that you’re not able to accomplish in the other mediums?
- Ellen- Storytelling combines all my favorite aspects of other performance types. Improv with vulnerability, Sketch with writing and practicing, Stand-up with your personal perspective on the world. All 4 require bravery - but I think the audience gets to witness the bravery of the storytellers.
- Devon- For me, storytelling really highlights the "salty-sweet" phenomenon that I love in food, it has some emotion and real personal depth to balance out the laughs, and I think that's where it shines as its own art form.
- Dana- Compared to improv, I like that storytelling lets me refine my lines so that they're just right.
- Casey- I think Storytelling is unique because it’s the most obvious invitation to ask others to experience our lives. Good stand-up, improv and sketch tells a story but it is not always as obvious.
- Julia- Storytelling, the way I try to encourage people to do it, makes you review and reveal yourself in the most honest way possible. The most important thing is the truth - not like facts, but your emotional honesty and candidness - rather than the joke or the punchline. Being able to get to that truth is something that can actually help with stand-up, improv, and sketch. You know the deal... comedy comes from truth.
If you could pick a theme for the next Gettin’ It show, what would you pick? (Author’s note: Julia DEMANDED that I ask this question)
- Ellen- "Lost & Found" has a lot of jumping off points. Promotions would be our faces on milk cartons.
- Devon- "Anything You Can Do"- I have a particular fondness for stories about overconfidence and competition.
- Dana- I like "Checkmate." I don't have a story for it yet, but I think it sounds cool
- Casey- The theme for the next show should be Bodily Functions.
This isn’t the first storytelling show for any of you and I’ve noticed that it’s rare for a performer to tell the same tale. Do you feel like you will start to run out of stories at some point?
- Dana- Oh man, you just hit on my worst fear; I'm always worried I'm going to run out of stories. But yes, I do believe it gets easier to turn small events into stories because you learn how to draw people into what was happening and how you were feeling in those moments.
- Devon- I don't think any human can run out of stories because we have all lived so much and are still constantly living.
- Ellen- No. I don't think I (or anyone) will ever run out of stories. And the older I get, the better stories I have.
- Julia- I think there are always new stories to tell, and some worth repeating or exploring through different angles.
- Casey- I think folks who want to tell stories are good at picking them out of everyday moments. It’s work, like mining gold, but it’s worthwhile.
Julia Cotton has been organizing this show from the start and I know from experience that putting together something on a consistent basis is oftentimes exhausting. What does this show mean to you?
- Ellen- Gettin' It is my favorite avenue to perform and experiment and share with others. Julia and her show are the biggest reasons why I've found myself involved in other areas of DCH. Props to her and her hard work.
- Dana- I'm so grateful for all the work Julia and Devon do to put on these shows and I'm just flattered they keep asking me back. It gives me the chance to keep growing and doing something that I love.
- Casey- I love to see through another’s eyes for a short time. I’ve already learned so much from these remarkable humans and I can’t wait to report back to my home planet.
- Devon- I gave up performing and most of my writing 10 years ago after a good, solid run, in order to pursue my career and what I believed to be a more practical pathway. Taking the storytelling class, and then working with groups of individuals on shows in Gettin' It, has brought me closer to the kind of person that I want to be, but told myself that I couldn't for a very long time. I can't express this enough, this show has truly changed my life.
- Julia- First of all, thanks to Noa Gavin for asking to do something with me that "had to do with telling stories". If she hadn't, there would be no Gettin' It and I wouldn't have even thought to start a Storytelling class. Storytelling is my favorite thing to do on stage because of the connection it creates between the audience and the performers. I love doing this show and exploring new ideas with this cast because I love this cast and watching them grow as performers. They work so hard and care so much. I'm not telling a story this time, but I bet it will be my favorite show. I love watching these ladies be free and share their lives with a room full of strangers, who, by the end of the night, are like their best friends.
David Allison is writer and performer at the Dallas Comedy House, who can currently be seen with Ballast Point, David & Terry and The Rift, as well as directing the sketch team Walker Dog and the improv team Watermelon. Previous credits include Jason: A Campy Musical, Freddy: A Devilish Musical, That 90s Show, Return Of The 90s, Sensation: The Next Great Play and more!