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  • Writer's pictureBrandon Spars

Young Coyote Tales

Updated: Oct 24, 2020

Last Wednesday, October 21, was the inaugural performance of the Alumni Edition of Coyote Tales. Nine Sonoma Academy alumni submitted five-minute videos for a story slam. The event was held in the Fitzsimmons Black Box Theater, was hosted by none other than Chris Fitzsimmons himself and me. The Sonoma Academy tech crew—Sean Freese, Spencer Nilsen, and David Mahlaku—provided numerous camera angles, crystal clear sound, and professional video weaving to make the event have a live feel overall. Chris and I told a joint story, read audience answers to a prompt, and introduced each of the tellers. There was a live shot of each teller in the zoom audience before their pre recorded video would play.

Each story was powerful in its own way. Perry Parsons began the show with a touching story about falling in love with, ultimately to become best friends with Jess O'Connor. Jemal Williams brought tears to my eyes with a moving preface about what my encouragement to him while he was at SA meant. He then performed a beautiful piece of spoken word about his aunt. Grace Harryman read a humorous and literary story that she is going to eventually publish. Sarah Tatum and Julia Burns performed a duo story that had everybody in stitches. Jack Greenberg gave us a taste of what his stand-up comedy he is pursuing in New York is like. And finally Milly Williams closed the set out with her extraordinary energy.

The theme for the evening was "When we were young." Maxmarie Willmoth took us to the edge with a horrifying tale about advice she received in a public bathroom at a Thai restaurant from an older woman. At the time the advice was shocking, but most women would agree it was solid. Lisa Lei connected the event with the isolation of quarantine, and our community came together to help each other heal from this crazy year.

Chris Fitzsimmons and I told a joint-story about his freshman year on an Intersession trip I led to China. We were in search of "the long tea pour." Needless to say, our group never found this, but our quest led us into many interesting situations and places, including a brothel. Unplanned, Matt Duncan, who was also on this trip, told a story about "the long tea pour," and he let it be known that he actually found it. It is obvious that sometimes it is best not to actively seek something, but just let it come to you as Matt did.

The judges were Sally Williams, Hannah Schiweck, Ben Evers, and my colleague Chris Ziemer. They have a tough job picking the top three. Chris Ziemer spoke about his hilarious tie-breaking process (who took the most classes with Brandon, who still has the most humanities textbook). All of the storytellers are receiving gift packages with a note from me. Ultimately, tied for second was the duo by Sarah & Julia and Jemal's spoken word. First place went to Grace Harryman's short story. At the end of the night we all felt like winners because our sharing story with one another brought us together in a time when we feel so often alone.

The audience prompt was the following: "If I knew then what I know now, I would have..." Emily Kivett brought us all to tears with her response: "...I would have hugged Doug Gallagher one last time." Doug's birthday was October 20; he took his life six years ago.

Inaugural Alumni Coyote Tales, Wednesday, October 21, 2020 via Zoom


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