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Area Voices: 'Northern Voices on Stage' continues storytelling form

A woman tells a story to the community in a red beret.
Watermark Art Center
A storyteller from the Watermark Art Center's story slam.

Storytellers from around the state gather to tell their stories at Bemidji Brewing. Watermark Art Center Communications Director Lisa Seter and storyteller Ann Marie Newman discuss the April 18 event and how they’re making it more accessible.

BEMIDJI — One of the oldest traditions is sharing stories with others. Northern Voices on Stage is continuing that tradition.

The Watermark Art Center and KAXE have teamed up to present Northern Voices on Stage at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 18, at Bemidji Brewing. It will include storytellers from around the state and an open mic option for the audience.

"There's a deeply human aspect to storytelling. It's the oldest art form."
Ann Marie Newman

One of the storytellers, Ann Marie Newman, said the event is a way to define life in Northern Minnesota, living in the cold north with hot summers.

Other storytellers will be Marsh Muirhead, Sue Searing and Terry O’Brien with Stay Human producer Michael Goldberg hosting the event. Some of the stories told may end up in future episodes of Stay Human as well.

There won’t be a competition element at this event.

“This is a storytelling concert. That means we'll be doing more long stories 10 minutes, 12 minutes long. We have more time to really do a developed story,” Newman said.

There also won’t be an overarching theme to the event so audiences can expect a variety of styles in the stories.

Previous story events have proven to be successful. From the very first event, they had a full house.

Newman said she thinks people are drawn to stories.

“They see the human aspect of it," she said. "There's a deeply human aspect to storytelling. It's the oldest art form.”

Audience participation

The open mic portion will be at the end of the event. This will be a chance for audience members who are inspired by the evening to tell their story.

“We have always had wonderful spontaneous tellers,” Newman said. “Spontaneity, that wonderful aspect of storytelling ... you're just called in the moment do it.”

Welcoming everyone

This event will also serve as a testing ground for a new feature for storytelling events. There will be two American Sign Language interpreters near the stage. Lisa Seter of the Watermark Art Center said this was a way to welcome more people in the community, thanks to an accessibility grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board.

“I think there's a segment of people that are around us all the time and we don't want people to miss out on awesome things like this. And so, we're kind of dipping our toes into the accessibility,” Seter said.

Seter said she hopes attention to accessibility will catch on at other Bemidji events. “We want to deepen the welcome to Bemidji, and we can start that with our events that we host.”

Northern Voices on Stage is a free event and will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday at Bemidji Brewing.

Tell us about upcoming arts events where you live in Northern Minnesota by emailing

Area Voices is made possible by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.

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