But That’s Another Story is a “gimmick-free focus on genuine human connection”
After only three performances, a new storytelling series is packing them in at the Free Times Cafe. It’s called But That’s Another Story and it gives space to a wide cross-section of genres, including fables, comic essays, and more contemporary works. Its producer-hosts, Briane Nasimok and Christel Bartelse, are two well-established voices in the Canadian performing arts. Nasimok is a Canadian Comedy Award winner who appeared in classic 1980s films like Gas and The Funny Farm. Bartelse is a Canadian Comedy Award nominee known for her internationally-acclaimed one-woman shows.
The night I attended had the theme of “stories by women, about women, and for women.” It featured six storytellers who delved into a variety of subjects, such as aging, divorce, and sexuality. Natasha Charles and Tracey Erin Smith did so through fiction, Alex Dallas and Emily Poulin through stand-up comedy, and Jean Bubba and Debbie Fein-Goldbach through autobiographical reminiscences.
The talent was high caliber with five of the six storytellers being professional performers. That being said, all six combined emotional vulnerability with solid story fundamentals. I was lost in everyone’s words because there was always tension to feel, a memorable line to savor, or conflict to be swept up in. For these reasons, the show felt shorter than it actually was.
I was instantly taken by Tracey Erin Smith’s tale of an apocalyptic disaster in Toronto. With surrealist flare, and the unbridled joy of having survived, she recounted for us her treacherous journey through fire and ice to reunite with her missing mother. It was Erin Smith’s fearless and irreverent writing that made her the best of the night for me. Every time her character found herself in a bind, there were no limits as to what she could do to get out of it. This included such rich details as taking a horse whispering class, transforming into a superhero figure called the Burning Bush of Parkdale, and being visited multiple times by a godly apparition of Gloria Steinem.
Comedian and writer Emily Poulin was a close second for me in terms of having a harmonious blend of form and content. Poulin—a producer on the live lesbian talk show, Casa Del Lesbo—shared her coming out story with charming self-deprecation and pinpoint comedic timing that had me hooked from hello. Her use of recurring themes, like gay indicators and her lack of self-awareness, gave her story a sense of build-up that kept me caring until the end.
My final standout is Jean Bubba, whose story about dating after divorce was memorable for her unrushed pace, deadpan drawl, and bad ass attitude. She stood on that tiny stage like she owned it, captivating me with the conflict between her religious upbringing and her need for romance. She was like a queen, self-assured of her powers, issuing a decree.
My guest, Esther, praised Bubba’s distinctive imagery, especially her description of one of her suitors as a pervy Bilbo Baggins. She also found Erin Smith to be beyond gifted as a storyteller, one of those artists who is able to make people believe pretty much anything. Our lone shared criticism has to do with duration. We felt a few stories lost luster for going on a little longer than they should have. A minor note, though, for an otherwise engrossing night.
But That’s Another Story’s staying power lies in its gimmick-free focus on genuine human connection. The event brings storytelling back to basics by combining only three ingredients—a mic, an audience, and imagination—into the wonder of romps through worlds in other people’s heads. In the end, it was a comfort to be reminded that I was not alone, in that these worlds were just as weird, sad, and joyous as my own.
- But That’s Another Story runs the first Sunday of the month at the Free Times Cafe (320 College Street).
- Tickers are $10 and available at the door. Reservations with dinner can be made at 416-967-1078.
Photo of Tracey Erin Smith, Alex Dallas, Emily Poulin, Jean Bubba, Christel Bartelse, Natasha Charles, Briane Nasimok and Debbie Fein-Goldbach provided by the organizers.