Two years ago, Susanna Lee started a storytelling event in Los Angeles called the Dirty Birdie Story Hour.
“Dirty” is the operative word, although “deviant” is more appropriate.
The idea sprung from a short-lived online series that Lee hosted called Peeping Comics, in which guests shared some dark secrets or weird confessions.
“I loved the stories I heard on the Web show and thought I’d turn that concept into my own show as a deviant storytelling show,” said Lee a comedian, storyteller and burlesque performer who moved from Kansas City to Los Angeles in 2011.
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“People could get up and tell the darkest, dirtiest, naughtiest things they’ve ever done.”
After bouncing from one venue to another, Lee settled in at Three Bars in Los Angeles, where she has a contract for a monthly gig through the end of the year.
This summer, she brought Dirty Birdie to Kansas City for the annual Fringe festival.
“We did five shows, and they went really well,” she said. “The final night was my favorite. We had three audience members get up and tell stories. And it was great. The whole room was great.”
Lee is bringing Dirty Birdie back to her hometown Friday night at the Uptown Arts Bar, 3611 Broadway, where she has arranged a monthly second-Friday gig. Lee and four other performers and storytellers will perform. Each will relate an incident in his or her life that was somehow deviant, a word open to interpretation.
“Deviance is anything that can get you arrested or excommunicated,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be sexual. It’s the spice of life, the good stuff — sex, drugs, crime. I tell my performers, if it’s an interesting story and it involves deviance, I’m fine with it, even if the deviance is as mild as crossing the street against the light and you have an amazing story about it, then great.
“Sexual deviance is always interesting. I always find the nonsexual deviance to be very interesting. Sex is easy. But nonsexual stories can be best. You have to dig a little deeper, like: ‘That one time I helped a guy steal $1,500 of stuff from Hobby Lobby.’ I like hearing those.”
After the main performance, Lee will conduct a storytelling workshop. Audience members can participate, either during the main presentation or during the “confessionals,” which are brief.
“They are very quick; in 20 seconds or less you tell something you’ve done,” she said.
Those stories are judged by the audience and given a score on a scale of 1 to 10, least to most deviant. Prizes are awarded according to the score. A spanking is one prize option.
For this episode, Lee has recruited performers and storyteller she knows in Kansas City. She hopes to bring new storytellers into the fold each month: “I want to expand the circle of people who will come and create something bigger than it is now.”
The larger point of the story hour, Lee said, is to eliminate the residue of shame or regret some people feel over things they have done.
“I’ve never held the weird or odd things I’ve done against myself,” she said. “Those are the things I’ll remember forever. I want to give other people the chance, let them hear other stories and reduce the shame a lot of people feel about the naughtier escapades of their lives.”
The Dirty Birdie Story Hour starts at 10 p.m. Friday at the Uptown Arts Bar, 3611 Broadway. Host Susanna Lee will perform along with four other storytellers. Audience members will be encouraged to participate; prizes will be awarded for the best story or confessional. Admission is $7. A storytelling workshop will follow.