The act of listening to stories conjures images of late night campfires in the summer, of having a book read allowed to you, of catching up with an old friend, or hearing a relative reminisce on the past. A constant between all of these experiences is that at their core, they include exchange and connection. The Corner, a recurring live storytelling event in Lewiston-Auburn, brings togethers Mainers from far and wide over the act of sharing their life experiences.
The exact founding date of The Corner remains unknown, but the effort was first started by Bates psychology professor Michael Sargent, who is currently on sabbatical. In a non-pandemic era, the event would normally take place at local Lewiston eatery She Doesn’t Like Guthries — known as Guthrie’s for short. The Corner took off in popularity from its inception and would summon crowds of nearly hundreds of people to the pub. Now led by co-organizers Kate Webber ‘11 and Steve Burger, the share continues to occur remotely as a zoom event.
The format of the event is as follows: every month, a new prompt is chosen for storytellers, and attendees gather all together to hear a medley of planned and spontaneous stories. “At the usual live event, we have about ten story tellers — five of whom we select in advance, and five of whom are drawn from the attendees at the event. So anyone that shows up that night, has a beer and thinks ‘I think I could tell a story!’ puts their name in a jar,” said Webber. “You have some people that have devoted some time to the art of [storytelling], and some who were inspired while they were just sitting there. It’s really neat, because you never know what you are going to get on a given evening — there’s a wide range of tellers and a wide range of approaches.”
While the majority of The Corner’s attendees hail from all over the state of Maine, even occasionally recruiting nationally-known storytellers, the bulk of its audience are Lewiston-Auburn locals. The effort was started as a way to create a meaningful form of entertainment for the community, offering a direct way for people of different backgrounds to connect over their unique experiences. At its core, The Corner wishes to empower individuals to have a platform to share with others.
Webber said The Corner aims to be a welcoming place for people to form meaningful connections. “You got to hear little bits of people’s life experiences and chat with them afterwards, and really got a sense of the amazing community — there are stories being shared from people from all over the world that have ended up in this Maine city,” she said.
Director of the Harward Center Darby Ray is a frequent attendee of The Corner since its very first season. “There’s always at least one story that really moves me or that gives me a full-belly laugh,” she said. “I definitely have my favorite tellers, including several Bates friends, but I also love being surprised by people I’ve never met.”
“It surprises me literally every month. I think that’s the best part of The Corner for me,” Webber added.
Losing the live aspect of the event and transitioning to Zoom has changed its nature, creating a bit of a learning curve for regular attendees. Instead of doing live shares of their stories, participants will record their story and share the videos to an audience on Zoom. However, different doesn’t mean bad in this case — the transition to Zoom has changed the accessibility of The Corner in a way that previously may not have been possible.
“The good thing about the virtual event is that some of the people that have volunteered to tell their stories have been different than folks that have shared at live events,” Webber commented. The format of zoom allows individuals who are further afield in Maine, are limited in mobility, or have moved away from Lewiston-Auburn to partake in the event.
The Corner is a beautiful way to immerse oneself in the Lewiston-Auburn community and get to know Mainers from near and far. As Ray put it, “The Corner is a magical space. It brings people from many walks of life together, and it connects them to each other through shared vulnerability and celebration.”
This month’s theme for The Corner is “The Power is Out,” which grapples with what power can mean in a multitude of ways, whether that is being in power, having your lights go out in a rainstorm, feeling powerless, or being empowered. You can read the full description of the theme, register for the event, and read more about The Corner on their website. “The Power is Out” will be held virtually on Apr. 8 at 7 p.m.