RED Talks create new forms of expression and story-telling at Ripon College

During the academic year, Friday nights at Ripon College have been filled with storytelling, thanks to Real Entertaining Dialogue (RED) Talks, a weekly open-mic storytelling event at Bovay’s Study Bar and Mercantile in downtown Ripon.

RED Talks have been incredibly successful and will continue next year, with plans to expand them in the near future.

The program was created during the fall semester of 2017 by the Ripon College Speakers Bureau as a one-credit co-curricular course run by faculty of the Ripon College Department of Communication. The group works alongside Jody Roy, professor of communication and the Victor and Carrie Palmer Endowed Chair for Leadership Values, and Steve Martin ’96, associate professor of communication and chair of the department.

RED Talks spread thought and share stories with the greater Ripon College community. The showcase format attracts an array of students from different backgrounds and departments, encouraging them to speak on a common theme decided by Speakers Bureau.

“I love that anyone can come and share their story,” says Lauren Hince ’18 of Blaine, Minnesota. “I have always hated that I can never participate in talent shows because I can’t sing or dance. I’m not into poetry or play an instrument, so open mic nights have never worked out. This is a unique chance for people to just tell a really good story. There is something special and beautiful about that.”

Each Friday, Bovay’s quickly filled with students, often requiring extra chairs to be brought in. When those aren’t enough, peers gladly sit shoulder-to-shoulder on the floor. Before the event starts, Speakers Bureau students ask for volunteers and create a lineup based off of them. One by one, individuals walk onto the corner stage, take hold of the microphone and tell their stories.

The audience reactions are boisterous, filling the room with contagious, belly-busting laughter. Storyteller and listener play off of one another, contributing to the inviting, friendly atmosphere. After the lineup is done, last-minute walk-ons are invited to take the stage.

“The most rewarding part about participating in RED Talks is that you get to hear people tell stories, whether they are funny, embarrassing, personal, etc., that you normally wouldn’t get to hear in a classroom setting,” says Vince Hribernik ’19 of Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Martin adds, “I think it’s an excellent low-risk opportunity for anyone to get up in public and share a story, whether that story is humorous, sad, embarrassing or inspiring.”

Hince urges everyone to “just do it! It’s five minutes of your life, and you may discover that you really love public speaking! I know I always get a rush of energy whenever I finish speaking.”

Hribernik adds: “Tom Phillipsen (’19, of Waupaca, Wisconsin) twisted my arm to come and tell a story. … I was on the fence about it, but I ended up doing it and at the end of the day, I had a really great time.”

Martin says the event continues a tradition. “Many decades ago, the only form of entertainment was gathering in a public space to view a ‘street play’ or to visit a saloon or pub to listen to and perform speeches and stories. It’s a throwback event with a modern twist, and I think anything that can get people away from their electronic screens as the sole source of entertainment can be rewarding.”

Dakota Marlega ’21
Waupaca, Wisconsin

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