Non-Profit Spotlight: Story District

Story District is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC, that offers performances, classes, free coaching, and consulting. They are dedicated to the art of autobiographical storytelling, and their mission is to “inspire, connect, and build a community of diverse voices within the Washington, DC region and beyond.” Originally founded as Washington Storytellers Theater in 1991, they initially brought in professional storytellers from around the country. Eventually, they started an open mic series called the Speakeasy, where local people could give storytelling a shot. What began as an open mic series slowly grew into what it is today: a local arts institution and community. 

Story District’s educational programming helps you “master the art of storytelling.” They work with individual storytellers on their stories to help them master their execution and performance skills. They offer a Storytelling 101 class in the form of a five-week course with a one-day bootcamp. They do exercises to help you identify your story, and then they focus on story crafting (how the story needs to be told) and story performance. The program helps individuals build the confidence needed to share their stories. It’s a creative outlet, an opportunity for personal development, and the chance to be part of a community of storytellers. The storytellers will workshop together and give each other feedback, building community and expanding storytelling skills simultaneously.  Story District’s director Amy Saidman says, “People get a chance to retrace their steps, rethink, and reframe the stories of their lives, and it’s quite transformative.” 

They also offer training for workplaces. Story District works with nonprofits, businesses, and government agencies to teach people how to tell engaging and compelling stories in the workplace or with clients. Story District’s services and consulting work helps these workplaces craft compelling stories that can be used to build connections with others and can be infinitely helpful in a professional environment. 

Of special note is Story District’s performances. From stories about fights with friends to crushes on roommates to the experience of using public restrooms as a trans woman, storytellers perform tales from their real-life experiences. Their performances have themes. On Valentine’s Day 2020, they did “Sucker for Love,” where people told stories about their love lives. Others have been “Worst Date Ever,” “Acting a Fool,” and “She Comes First,” which featured stories of women “taking a stand, turning the tables, and breaking the ceiling.” Their annual pride event, Story District’s Out/Spoken, provides members of the LGBTQ+ community a platform to tell their stories. 

In addition to Story District’s performance events, they shared stories through their podcast Story District Presents. Hosted by Saidman, the podcast featured both stories told live on the Story District stage and behind the scenes with the storytellers themselves. Like the performances, season 2 of the podcast had a theme, “Seven Deadly Sins.” Each story represented one of the sins, storytellers shared tales from their lives corresponding to a sin. 

For 22 years, Story District has done the incredible work of empowering people of all backgrounds to share the stories of their lives. “A great story is a gift,” Saidman says, “It connects us with shared human experiences and emotions, enriches our sense of self, and opens our minds to perspectives and life experiences that are different from our own.” If you want to check out their work, see their YouTube channel for full-length stories from their events and keep an eye out for their upcoming shows. Their next show will be Story District’s Top Shelf on December 18th, 2021.