The Story behind Barefaced Stories with Kerry O’Sullivan

Published on August 10, 2012
Categories - Blog, Guest Bloggers, Read About

Barefaced Stories is an underground storytelling event that takes place on the last Tuesday of every month at The Bird, and in the lead up to a special Barefaced Stories ‘We Love Perth’ night on 28 August Andrea & Kerry are our guest bloggers for the month. Today Kerry O’Sullivan – actor, comedian, Executive Director of The Blue Room Theatre, and the other half of Barefaced Stories – tells us how Barefaced Stories kicked off. If you missed Andrea’s story last week then head here, otherwise happy reading!

Barefaced Stories was created from a little bit of envy and a whole lot of love. When Andrea Gibbs was able to go over to New York City and be mentored by Margot Leitman, I’ve got to admit I was a little jealous; particularly when I was seeing hipstamatic prints of my best mate riding in the back of New York taxi cabs like this one:

Andrea in the back of a NYC yellow cab.

I remember catching the train to work and pretending I was in a foreign city, listening to podcasts of American storytelling nights like The Moth and thinking how cool New York City would be until the train grinds to a halt and I hear “This is Perth” and I get out to start my day at work.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Perth and the people in it. I moved over from Adelaide for one year in 1997 and I’m still here, but there was something great about listening to stories of ordinary people in a different country and feeling connected.

Andrea and I have been mates for years. We met when we were studying theatre at Curtin but we were in different years so we never really hung out. When Andrea joined The Big Hoo-Haa! that’s when we really got to know each other. People can get pretty close when they perform comedy together for a decade.

Andrea and Kerry performing for The Big Hoo-Haa!

When Andrea got back from NYC we were keen to start our own storytelling night here in Perth and we’d had a fair amount of experience producing theatre and comedy over the years so we knew what we were in for. The problem was that nobody else was trained in storytelling and we really wanted it to be a quality night out.

Enter Margot Leitman. We skyped her in New York and asked if she was keen to come over and train up a bunch of storytellers (we were really just trying to find out her interest as we had no way of paying for it…) and she said “Let’s make it happen. I’m in.” and suddenly we were committed.

Margot Leitman; photo by Ryan Jensen.

We decided that we could hold the workshops at The Blue Room Theatre and have the first shows as part of Summer Nights. Now we just had to find a way to come up with the fifteen grand to pay for it… We booked flights and accommodation on our credit cards and held Bunnings sausage sizzles in 40+ degree heat to come up with some of the money. I wish I had a photo of us slogging it out in the heat but nobody wants to see that.

Somehow it all came together and we had the beginnings of a show. Now we needed a brand. Andrea and I spent many nights (with a pint in Northbridge) going over countless names but nothing seemed right until Andrea called me and said “Barefaced”. Done. We needed an image and Andrea was really keen on an American artist named Matty Cipov and we kept coming back to his work. We would think “maybe we can hire a Perth artist to draw something like his work” thinking that there would be no way that he would sell the image to us. We decided to just ask and he said yes. I came up with the name Brutally Frank (it seemed apt because that’s how we wanted our storytelling night to be) and our mascot was born.

Brutally Frank; image by Matty Cipov.

When we were doing the shows at The Blue Room Theatre we knew we had to find a venue for a regular night. We wanted to keep it away from the comedy rooms because we wanted our audience to identify Barefaced Stories as something other than another comedy night. We wanted it to be appropriate to tell true stories that could be funny, sad or just downright embarrassing. It needed to be close to the city, an intimate space where you could get a drink during the show but also a place that you would want to hang out with your friends. I wanted The Bird.

The Bird; photo by Andrew Bell.

To my mind there was nowhere better for this night so we invited one of the owners Mike O’Hanlon to a show at The Blue Room to see if he liked it and luckily he did.

We have had a lot of landmarks in the two years that we have been running:

In October last year we held our first Story Battle with Lawrence Ashford taking out the top prize

Lawrence Ashford 2011 Story Battle winner; photo by Andrew Bell.

At the start of this year we had another workshop series with Brian Finkelstein, who also brought over his solo show Three Strikes for Summer Nights as part of Fringe World. He is a fantastic mentor and world class performer who teaches for The Upright Citizen’s Brigade in Los Angeles and New York. We were so excited to get a cover of the arts section in X-Press while he was here that at first we didn’t even notice that they called him Barry. Barry became Brian’s smooth talking ladies’ man alter ego while he was in Perth… “Barry doesn’t mind the ladies. Barry loves the ladies.”

Barry Finkelstein – Reluctant Activist – Ladies’ Man

We have had a show hosted by Richard Fidler that was recorded for ABC 720 for the national radio program Conversations and in September Andrea and I will travel to Newcastle to be invited panellists at the National Young Writers’ Festival.

It’s a fantastic night of storytelling, I am constantly amazed at the stories that people share at Barefaced. They are shocking, hilarious, touching, but most of all honest and it’s a privilege to be a part of that. I hope one day someone is riding on the train to work in a foreign city listening to our podcast and thinking “I wish I was in Perth”.

Kerry, Andrea and Barefaced Storyteller Sarah-Jane; photo by Andrew Bell.

If you want to see a Barefaced Stories night in action, then head to The Bird on the last Tuesday of each month. The next on is on Tuesday August 28 and will be a ‘We Love Perth’ special. We’ll see you there! In the meantime, read more about Kerry and Andrea in a previous interview over here.

Images courtesy of Kerry, thanks!


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