The main room of the Westside Eclectic Theatre was jammed with people. Extra seats were hastily set up. Singer-songwriter Brie Feingold-Africa sound-checked her voice and guitar with a bar of “Big Yellow Taxi.” Host Laurie Fraser told the audience to silence their cell phones. The monthly I Love a Good Story show had begun.
Feingold-Africa launched into her first number. “This is the singer-songwriter song/ I’m always right and the men are wrong.” She followed this with a little ditty about auto-eroticism.
Carl Kozlowski told a story about a childhood vacation that got messy when Carl’s mother decided that drug use was happening in the motel where they were staying. Amy Simon told of having the luck to get a job at the new Broad Center, where she worked with a group of well-known actors, including Dustin Hoffman.
Between the acts, Feingold-Africa performed more of her irreverent and risque songs, and Chris Pina, the show’s official announcer, appeared several times to read faux commercials in his announcer voice. These included “Plate of the Month Club” with great books reproduced on dinner plates to allow families to catch up on reading, and “Crazy Andre’s Art Sale,” with great paintings at fire sale prices.
Dan Prosek told of his “little brother,” who eventually became his “hulking bully” brother. Marcie Rich’s “Dirty One” was a sex story, explicit but funny.
Julio Martinez brought a guitar on stage to accompany his story of an encounter with a mysterious woman who turned him on to the music of the equally mysterious Brazilian musician Baden-Powell. The show ended with another funny naughty song from Feingold-Africa.
In the aftermath of the show, audience members noshed on refreshments and talked with the performers-and the Mirror sat down with Fraser in the improvised “green room” area.
Fraser, an actor and voice-over artist, started I Love a Good Story two years ago. Inspired by the Story Salon series run by Beverly Mickens in the Valley, she asked Mickens “if she would mind if I started a series on the Westside.” In fact, Mickens performed in the first of Fraser’s shows, along with Lance Anderson and Rick Overton.
Overton, Mark Miller, and Chris Pina have provided comedy writing for the series (the faux commercials) and the Westside Eclectic has been providing the space. Fraser relies mostly on word-of-mouth to bring in audiences and worries from month to month about how many reservations she’ll get. “One time we may have 46 people, the next month only 12.”
While the storytellers are usually seasoned performers, Fraser advises them to be patient about audience reactions. “I tell them not to worry if they don’t get a reaction. This is a listening audience. They are going through different emotions and they sometimes just take it all in.”
It’s also a “safe” place to tell a story, for although industry types often attend, it’s not a lab or tryout venue but simply a place to share stories.
Next month, I Love a Good Story will be presenting its first show of stories by kids, ages 11-17.Shows happen the third Sunday of every month at 4 p.m. Storytellers can submit their work at iloveagoodstory.com.