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Monthly packed houses ‘Speaking Easy’ at Wild Goose Creative

Nathan Edwards, a storyteller, speaks on stage at the monthly Speak Easy event at Wild Goose Creative in August 2017. In coordination with Valentines Day, this Thursday’s theme focuses on love. Credit: Courtesy of Emily Webb

An assortment of storytellers are swarming to a small space on Summit Street once a month.

At Speak Easy at Wild Goose Creative, people of all kinds gather to tell and listen to a wide range of different stories.

Columbus local Ralph Fredericks, a former well-known maitre d’ in the Washington, D.C., area, has been attending the event for several years and said there is something special that always happens at Speak Easy.

“On the first Thursday of every month at 7 p.m., magic happens in a small space on Summit Street in Columbus, Ohio,” he said.

Eight years ago, a group called the Storytellers of Central Ohio coordinated with Wild Goose, a local community arts organization, to start the Speak Easy event. Fredericks said the event has since become a space for people of all types to hear tales of all kinds — from amusing life accounts and stand-up routines to confessions and stories with emotional depth.

“Storytelling is the new hip-hop,” Fredericks said. “When you come into that space, there’s me –– I’m 65 years old. There’s someone who’s 18 years old. There’s a lot of millenials. So it’s like that art form, like music, that totally crosses gender, race, sexual [orientation]… it totally embraces all of that. That’s what’s great about it.”

Because this week marks the beginning of February and the coming of Valentine’s Day, Wild Goose will present “To Hell (With Love),” going along with this month’s theme of love stories.

Emily Webb, a producer and photographer for Speak Easy Columbus, said all types of love-themed stories are welcome.

“I feel like people always seem to be more energized when you tell them that they don’t necessarily have to be all roses and sunshine,” Webb said. “Some of the best stories are ones that don’t end happily, and we want people to know that they can tell those stories, too.”

Now retired, Fredericks said he moved from D.C. to Columbus after he was diagnosed with cancer. With the help of family, he said he recovered and then discovered Speak Easy. He had studied acting at Ohio University and said he always preferred being by himself on stage. So when he told a story at Speak Easy for the first time, the solitary format of storytelling felt right.

“When I discovered Speak Easy, I discovered my real voice,” he said. “Now I’ve been telling there for five years.”

At Wild Goose, anyone is welcome to tell their story.

“I never go there when someone hasn’t said something that, in a way, changes my way of thinking,” Fredericks said. “And that’s pretty good for five bucks and bring your own beer.”

February’s Speak Easy event will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday at Wild Goose Creative, 2491 Summit St. Admission is $5 at the door.

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