Arts and Entertainment

Former Broadway actor teaches how to tell a story

Stacie Chaiken onstage during a performance of one of her solo plays.  - Photo courtesy of Stacie Chaiken
Stacie Chaiken onstage during a performance of one of her solo plays.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Stacie Chaiken

Go ahead, tell your story.

Just do it well, so your audience doesn’t get bored.

Islanders have the chance to make their must-tell stories riveting when writer-performer Stacie Chaiken comes to Whidbey with her three-day intensive “What’s the Story?” workshop Friday, Aug. 28 through Sunday, Aug. 30 at Gull Cottage in Langley.

The workshop embraces a supportive group process in which participants come with a script, a few pages of an autobiography, an inkling of some story they want to tell or just the longing to write.

Chaiken’s workshops have included people of every stripe, including professionals and brand-new writers.

“There is a lot to learn from one another,” Chaiken said of the group environment.

The process starts on Friday evening from 7 to 9:30 p.m. with a meet-and-greet, some reading and a shared snack.

Participants are asked to bring one or two pages of brand-new writing and perhaps some nibbles to share.

On Saturday at 10 a.m. the day starts with response and writing. From 1 to 2:30 p.m. there’s lunch and more writing, followed by response and writing until 5:30 p.m.

“When we’re done with work, we’ll lift a glass to the setting sun and have a potluck dinner,” Chaiken said.

Sunday morning participants can bring a dish to share for brunch from 10 a.m. 2 p.m., with a reading of new works for an invited audience at the Living Green Natural Food & Apothecary in Langley.

The workshops are designed to be non-obligatory and supportive.

“The response structure I have created for this work is designed to be constructive, empathic and deeply personal,” Chaiken said.

“It’s designed to give writers information that I believe to be useful to you, as you plumb personal experience for what story there is that might be of use and interest to others.”

Chaiken began her career as an actress, working on and off Broadway in New York City.

She moved to Los Angeles in 1996 and began writing and performing her own material, largely based on stories about her immigrant family. Those writings led to the creation of a solo play called “Looking for Louie,” which had two major Los Angeles productions and toured the United States and abroad.

Her new play, “The Dig,” is scheduled for a Los Angeles premiere in March 2010.

Chaiken said she started “What’s the Story?” workshop in 2001 when people who saw “Looking for Louie” asked her to work with them on their own stories for performance. During the past eight years, the workshop has expanded to include writers working for the stage, the page and the screen.

The group process allows participants to receive a wide spectrum of response.

“The group mirrors back to you what you’ve written; you choose what’s useful and what’s not. I help, of course, once I get a sense of what’s really going on,” Chaiken said.

The focus of the workshop is digging for raw material and crafting something out of it that is dramatic, eventful and brings the story to life in a relationship with an audience or a reader.

“What I am proudest of is the collective that has created itself around this work,” Chaiken said. “The willingness of individual artists to contribute to one another’s process with generosity, empathy and respect.”

To find out more about “What’s the Story?” visit www.whatsthestory or e-mail Chaiken at

For details about accommodations, cost or how to reserve a place to sleep, e-mail

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