Two years ago, around the same time we where crowdfunding the move of the Mezrab, I was an avid reader of Andrew Sullivan’s blog the Daily Dish. The man was an incredibly prolific blogger. He wrote, with the help of a dedicated team, about American elections, health care, the struggles in Iran, religion, the American invasion of Iraq (which he first supported and later came to regret), anything you could care about really. His blog was innovative, and he had managed to collect over one million dollars from his supporters, in essence becoming one of the biggest innovative media projects, fully sponsored by the readers.
Until he stopped.
Simple as that. One day he announced writing his blog for thirteen years had taken its toll. He couldn’t be caught any longer in the cycle of never ending reading and writing. And even though he had a team, they decided not to continue the blog without him. The entire project stopped, and the money raised was returned to the readers.
Losing my favorite blog made me think of our storytelling scene. We’ve seen the rise and disappearance of great festivals. My own mentor Anne van Delft was the director of one in Amsterdam. After running it for ten years she handed over the keys to the enterprise to her team. The first year she was not involved the festival it fell apart. The Storytelling festival in Maastricht stopped when the director quit after fifteen years. Two weeks ago I played the 20th edition of the storytelling festival in Aachen, only to hear the director is quitting, and no one could tell me what that meant for its existence.
With very little exception all the story projects we know are the love children each of one dedicated fool who, despite the lack of appreciation and funding for the art form, gives his or her everything. A great type of person to start new ventures, but horrible in terms of sustainability. When do you trust other people to do what you created with your blood, sweat and tears?
So I decided to do the one thing I never thought I’d do. After 12 years of running the Mezrab storytelling nights, not remembering the last weekend I’ve had when I didn’t perform, have I decided to stop hosting my own night. It will be interesting to see the night from behind the bar, not butting in. Or possibly I’ll spend an evening with my family, see a show outside of the Mezrab, accept an invitation to a Shabbat dinner.
It means there’s someone who can take the night and make it his own. Michael Jäger is not only a loved storyteller on our stage, he’s started and has ran his own nights in different venues around the city. He was always the first go to person when I needed someone to replace me. Now I’ll be the guy who will replace him when he can’t run one of the nights. The night itself has been redubbed the Original Mezrab Storytelling Night. Original for both it being the night that started everything, but also the one that tries to be innovative.
It also means that I accept an idea runs beyond the effort and existence of one person. And don’t worry, it also means I can redirect focus on some of the other nights that need the dedication and creativity of a dedicated fool.
Come and enjoy the Original Storytelling nights with me, let’s see where this will take us.