“We are kind of sticklers that it should be [about] romantic love,” says Amy Saidman. “Otherwise, honestly, half the people would come and tell us how much they love their dog.”
Saidman is talking about Story District’s signature February program, Sucker for Love. Since the show’s launch over 15 years ago, it has been expanded and enhanced through greater diversity in nearly every aspect, from the storytellers presented to the subject matter covered.
Yet all stories shared at Sucker for Love, now as ever, must be rooted in love of a romantic nature.
“It is for Valentine’s Day, so we want to honor, if you will, the holiday,” says Saidman, the arts organization’s longtime director. “It’s not Hallmark-y at all. It’s about successful romances, failed romances, challenges within relationships.” The show’s appeal isn’t limited merely to lovers and couples, says Saidman, but “there’s room for anyone who’s ever experienced any kind of love.”
Darryl Smith is one of eight area residents who will dip into personal histories with love and relationships for this year’s Sucker for Love, directed and hosted by Chris Lundy. Smith, a returning presenter at Story District who is also a member of the LGBTQ community, will share a new story that Saidman says “is so funny, what he reveals.”
Broadly speaking, the story touches on body image issues and explores “the things we share, the things we hide, the lies that are hard to maintain” all as it recounts a time when Smith was “totally crushing on a guy” and got so carried away, he ended up crushing things altogether.
“Honestly, we are not meeting our goals as much as I want around LGBTQ representation in all of our shows,” Saidman concedes. “We want LGBTQ voices in any show,” not just in Outspoken, the organization’s annual all-LGBTQ Pride month program. She’s hoping more members of the community will reach out and get involved.
An Outspoken storytelling alumnus, Anthony Oakes will return to Story District for the organization’s other February program. Now in its sixth year, Worst Date Ever carries the tagline “Bad Dates Happen to Good People.” At the show, Oakes, according to Saidman, is expected to recount his “naive” fumbles with dating and specifically with “navigating Grindr” shortly after he came out.
“It’s so hard to date and so disappointing — but it can be great material,” Saidman says. “The thing that was, maybe at the time, really difficult or tough to swallow, can be something that you actually almost learn to love because it’s so delightful for the audience — just kind of turning that experience on its head, and helping people that are still out there dating. ‘Well, that sucked, but at least we have a decent story.'”
More than decent, it might even be a winning, if not the winningest, story. Saidman concedes that the show’s full title — Worst Date Ever: A Valentine’s Day Contest — is a bit of a misnomer. After all, at Story District, “we don’t really do contests,” she says. “We’re not trying to rank storytelling skill. It’s really [just], you win if you had the worst date.”
Roughly a handful of storytellers will take the stage one by one this year to dig into the mire of their most egregious dating mishaps, then participate in a group Q&A session led by a panel of “color commentators.”
The evening concludes with the audience voting for the worst story, with the winning storyteller earning the “Golden Plunger.” Scott C. Hollingsworth returns as the show’s director and host as well as its music director under his alias of DJ Sugarpants.
Although taking place on Valentine’s Day, Worst Date Ever is styled more as an anti-Valentine’s Day offering. “[It’s] specifically a great way to spend Valentine’s Day if you’re not on a date,” says Saidman.
Story District’s Sucker for Love is Saturday, Feb. 10, at 8 p.m., at the Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U St. NW. Tickets are $39.50.
Story District’s Worst Date Ever: A Valentine’s Day Contest is Wednesday, Feb. 14, at 7 p.m., at the Howard Theatre, 620 T St. NW. Tickets are $30.
Visit www.storydistrict.org or call 202-803-2899.
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