We use storytelling and the magic of theatre and other media to challenge people to talk and listen to each other across perceived differences of identity, experience and opinions. We start with a focus on raising the level of discourse on race in America toward the elimination of prejudice and discrimination.
Who we are
We are journalists, theatre professionals, writers, photographers, videographers, graphic designers, and media engineers, combining our talents and resources to affect change locally and globally.
Your Real Stories (YRS) is incorporated as an organization under the laws of the State of Florida. We obtained our federal tax exempt 501(c)(3) status effective August 23, 2013. We are governed by a Board of Directors.
What we do
We use storytelling to transform communities. Our trademarked model of ‘theatrical journalism’ uses the stories of real people to challenge audience members to talk and listen to each other across perceived differences of identity, experience and opinions.
Through partnerships and collaborations with government agencies, corporations, social service organizations, artists and arts organizations, we include and involve a wide range of community members. We create opportunities for people to engage with one another in new and innovative ways that encourage dialogue, curiosity and compassion.
Our creative products
Decades of Day Work©
Our first project was influenced by the movie version of the book The Help. After its opening, we invited people to share their own real life stories about ‘domestic day work’, the limited job opportunities available to black women across the decades, and the effect of the institution of ‘day work’ on the families of workers and their white employers. We write scripts based on the stories collected, and produce shows with professional actors and theatre technicians. Each program in this Decades of Day Work series is presented in two parts: a dramatic reading of the stories by the actors interspersed with relevant poetry and songs. The program ends with a journalist-moderated panel discussion that includes the original storytellers and reaches out to the audience. Our special guest storyteller for Decades of Day Work IV was Dr. My Haley, widow of author Alex Haley and collaborator with him on the iconic book and television mini-series Roots.
St Pete Stories™
The St Pete Stories series features professional actors presenting the scripted life stories of real people from the community. Partnering with the City of St Petersburg, we presented the first 16 of these stories in four programs called This is my city: St Pete Stories. The first people to sit for the approximately two-hour interviews were the Mayor and Deputy Mayor. Other storytellers included: a mixed-race man in his mid-forties who spent nearly 20 years in prison; a young woman who arrived as a teenage refugee from Bosnia and faced the new challenges of living in the American South; and a Czechoslovakian immigrant who is grateful for her American citizenship that allowed her to earn a college degree and be deaf at the same time. Participants responded to This is my city: St Pete Stories with, “Awesome, powerful, excellent…moving and inspiring…great stories, great personalities…We need more events like this!… It was the most revealing and transforming experience that I have had in years living in this city.”
My Soul Looks Back: The Decades of Day Work Photographic Exhibit©
This traveling museum exhibit features the archival photographs collected from the original storytellers along with excerpts from their first-person stories and contemporary portraits of each of the storytellers by award-winning photojournalist Boyzell Hosey. Venues for the exhibit have included the Dr. Carter G Woodson African American History Museum and the Studio@620 in St Petersburg and the annual meeting of the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists in Tampa.
Story Days in Tampa Bay ™
Begun in 2014, this annual storytelling festival presents stories in a variety of ways. Stories are told, sung, danced, read to children in libraries, analyzed in writing seminars, seen in documentaries and experienced in poetry slams. Each year Your Real Stories produces some of the events and collaborates with partners around Tampa Bay to complete the rest of the five-day schedule. Current partners include the Tampa Bay Times, the Dali Museum, The St. Petersburg Library System, University of South Florida (USF) Tampa and USF St. Petersburg, The Studio@620, Poynter Institute, and others. For the second annual Story Days in Tampa Bay, Your Real Stories partnered with The USF College of The Arts and the Confucius Institute to present former NBC Universal VP, Paula Madison and “Finding Samuel Lowe: from Harlem to China,” the documentary that traces her search for her Chinese relatives. The fourth annual festival is scheduled for October 2-7, 2017.
Out of the Shadows: the LGBTQ+ Homeless Youth Project
Your Real Stories along with Family Resources and Planning Works, LLC (both of Tampa Bay) secured a grant to create awareness about the number and needs of LGBTQ+ Young People. Your Real Stories produced a two-hour presentation at The Palladium, an 800-seat theatre of St Petersburg College, featuring the stories of LGBTQ young people, parents, and people who provide services and shelter to young people after they have been disconnected from their families or aged out of foster care. The Palladium Theatre production follows the trademarked model created by Your Real Stories.
Where we are headed
Your Real Stories has gathered over a hundred hours of audio and video of storyteller interviews, as well as recordings of our live performances. We are convinced that we must share our St. Petersburg-based storytelling model with the rest of the state, the country and the world.
Find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/YRSinc/
Lillian R. Dunlap, Ph.D.