Helena Tell Us Something event, take 2: legislative session

Thursday of last week, Joyce and I packed the truck and headed to Helena for the second Tell Us Something event there. Again we were hosted by the very gracious folks over at Free Ceramics.

Last year, the recording failed and I was overly concerned about having it be successful this year. I was stressed out.

Once we verified that the recording device was functioning correctly and that sound was solid, I relaxed.

Last years’ event drew about 75 people, including the storytellers. It was a non-legislative season and I was interested how it would compare to an event this year during a legislative session.

I know that Helena is full during a legislature and I was hoping for a sold-out show, which, at Free Ceramics, would be 150 people.

There was an unexpected competing event the same night at The Myrna Loy. Beloved (and old at 91) Helena Jazz guitarist Blackie Nelson was playing with Bob Packwood. When I booked the show at Free Ceramics, the Bob and Blackie show was not yet listed anywhere in the resources I know about. (Hey, all y’all who went to see Bob & Blackie play and wanted to be two places at once, subscribe to the podcast!)

I had been to Helena 3 weeks prior to hang fliers. I had the event on Facebook. I had all of the social media cover photos reflecting the event. I contacted the Independent Record, the local paper in Helena, to make sure it was aware of the event. I sent the required blast emails.

The Sunday before the event, I drove over to Helena from Missoula to hold the workshop. Of the 8 storytellers slated to share a story on Thursday, only 4 could make the workshop. I met with one of the storytellers one-on-one prior to the workshop, and video conferenced a workshop/email feedback session with another later in the week. I had a last minute drop out the day before the show and called on the alternate storyteller, who agreed to share her story. We workshopped her story on the phone as Joyce drove us to Helena the day of the show. There was only one storyteller with whom I was unable to workshop, and he is a seasoned public speaker and storyteller in his own right. He’s known to me and has shared a story at Tell Us Something before.

All of that to say that I was confident in the storytellers and their stories.

When doors opened at 6 PM, we had only sold around 15 pre-sale tickets. Remember that we are used to seeing crowds upwards of 600 people in Missoula when we host Tell Us Something.

With all of the challenges before us, I took the stage confident and excited for a successful event.

In the end, attendance was solid at 75. All of the storytellers and their stories were incredible. The recording was successful as far as I can tell, and the podcasts are scheduled to be released.

Beyond the recording failing at the first Helena event, we also had a poor visual record of the show, as the photographer then was focused on a documentary of Tell Us Something she was shooting that never transpired. This go-round we have great photographs (thank you Jason O’Neil) and possibly some stationary video of the stories for our upcoming Youtube channel.

Helena is the first town beyond Missoula that we have attempted. We hope to be back. We’d like to expand our services to other Montana towns too. Time will tell. Traveling beyond Missoula to produce a show is expensive and doing it again without a sponsor is intimidating.

Huge thanks to all of the storytellers from April 6, 2017 in Helena at the “The First Time” themed event:

  1. Elizabeth Rivard
  2. Laura King
  3. Andrea Cross Guns
  4. Marc Moss
  5. Sarah Elkins
  6. Andy Shirtliff
  7. Jessica Peterson
  8. Aaron Parrett