SANTA CRUZ -- After seeing a storytelling performance in Portland last year, Laurie Guerin was determined to start something similar in Santa Cruz. Without hesitating, fellow solo performer Christine Silver jumped aboard.
"I'm not entirely sure what compelled me to say yes," Silver said.
Fast-forward a few months and the two women were launching their own forum to celebrate the art of storytelling. Word Up made its debut in the fall and returns for its sophomore show at the Broadway Playhouse this Saturday.
"We wanted to do storytelling and we wanted to have a theme," Silver said as she sat at a downtown coffeehouse Wednesday.
This time around, the theme is "the Complexities of Love," but the women of Word Up don't intend to always have holiday-inspired themes.
The ancient art of storytelling has undergone something of a renaissance, with organizations such as New York City-based the Moth hosting "storyslams" across the country and the increased popularity of national radio program "This American Life."
Silver, who works professionally as a corporate trainer, became enamored with solo performances a few years ago after taking a workshop through Santa Cruz-based The Fun Institute. It was at the SpotLife workshop where she met Guerin.
Guerin said she'd been involved in theater when she was in high school and college, but then became busy with her family and her career. The SpotLife workshop reinvigorated her audience and gave her ideas for taking her writing to the stage.
Most of the people they know doing solo performances, which can be fictional or non, seem to be in the over-40 set, Guerin and Silver said. They knew a lot of people interested but there was a scarcity of venues and opportunities to perform on the local level. Connecting the community was a big part of the goal in launching Word Up.
"Watching someone tell a story on stage -- we all make snap judgments -- but storytelling gives a person multidimensions," Guerin said. "They (the storyteller) come to life before your eyes."
Word Up is also focused on maintaining a safe, supportive, noncompetitive environment for people to share their stories. Saturday's performance will feature three local storytellers and three from out of town. Attendees who want to tell their stories will put their names in a hat and a few of the audience members will get to hop on stage and share. The first show was focused on the theme of ghost stories, and the response was great, Guerin and Smith said.
"It was awesome to see how people would just rise to the occasion," Silver said.
Follow Sentinel reporter Jessica M. Pasko on Twitter at Twitter.com/jmpasko96
IF YOU GO
Word Up presents 'The Complexities of Love'
What: A storytelling performance
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Broadway Playhouse, 526 Broadway, Santa Cruz.
Who: Featured storytellers will be Mark Kenward, Christine Silver, Erica Lann-Clark, Donna Riggs, Cory Reddish and Xioajuan Shu.
Tickets: $10, available at the door or online at www.brownpapertickets.com.
On the Web: www.wordupsantacruz.com