Mitra Bonshahi and Sylvie Lubow, Creators of "Two Truths and a Lie," Talk Fact and Fiction Storytelling
Two Truths and a Lie is a live storytelling event in Brooklyn, which mixes real life tales with bald faced lies and challenges the audience to decipher which is which. The latest edition is happening tonight at Fada Bistro in Williamsburg. We chatted with the creators of the project, Mitra Bonshahi and Sylvie Lubow, to ask them about how it works, why they do it, and why the worst story (involving a facial yeast infection) was a truth, not a lie.
What is Two Truths and a Lie?
Sylvie: Two Truths and A Lie is a live storytelling event that blends fiction, memoir, and the art of storytelling. At each show/event, six performers take the stage and tell stories around a selected theme. Four of the six storytellers are all about real-talk, meaning that their stories (for better or worse) are totally true! The other two storytellers are straight up frauds - they're trying to trick the audience by telling truth-sounding stories, but they are, in fact, lies! To conclude the evening, we tally the votes, announce the audience predictions, and reveal the liars.
How did you you come up with the idea?
Sylvie: Mitra was inspired by "The Moth"; I was inspired by sleep-away camp. We knew we wanted to create an event around storytelling. We knew we wanted to incorporate some sort of audience participation. We knew that if we invited enough of our loyal friends to come out and support us, we'd look like we at least kind of had our shit together!
Why do you do it?
Sylvie: We do it because we are inspired by the stories around us, because we like to flex our creative muscles every now and then, and because we enjoy bringing people together for a good time.
What's the most outrageous lie you've heard so far?
Mitra: The most outrageous lie involved a pink flamingo monogramed thong and a semi-one night stand.
Sylvie: Tough one. Although, I feel like the more compelling distinction might be the most outrageous truth. For me, it's hands down the story about the facial yeast infection. That one had me roaring, gagging, and doubting, all in equal measure.
How good are your audiences at picking out the liars?
Sylvie: Our audiences tend to be very smart and intuitive, but we've managed to hoodwink our fair share of attendees. The best and most awkward audience misstep: when one of the highest liar tallies was for one of our more poignant storytellers. She told a somber but beautiful story about being a hospice volunteer and nearly everyone thought she was lying. OOPS, she wasn't? Gotta love our skeptics and cynics!
Disclosure: we all met while working at StoryCorps together. How did your experiences working there affect what you're doing with Two Truths and a Lie?
Sylvie: It's true - we did all meet at StoryCorps. And we'd certainly be remiss not to credit our love-affair with storytelling (and with each other) to that wildly imaginative and wonderful organization! Working at StoryCorps was our window into the world of oral history: a world full of nuance, and heart. Two Truths allowed us to celebrate the best parts of StoryCorps (the stories themselves) through a new kind of medium.
You record the stories. Are you going to produce anything with that audio?
Mitra: We're in the works of launching our website. Since we don't charge for admission, we're trying to raise funds for our website through donations. Once the site is up, we'll have audio, as well as, video stories of past events.
What have you learned about human nature in doing this?
Mitra: Wow human nature, that's a big theme. Well I would sum it up as we all feel compelled to share private moments of our lives with the public. Two Truths and A Lie allows all who want to tell their story the chance to participate because we know that it is a part of human nature to share and expose intimate parts of our lives to others. Of couse everyone is not up for being on stage in that way and that's why we provide the space for people to listen to such stories. The tradition of oral storytelling is alive and well, and we want to bring that once again to the public arena.
Who is performing tonight, and what's the theme?
Sylvie: Liv Ordway, Nadia Reiman, Nicholas O'Brien, Andrea Mersits, Chela Edmunds and Paul Murdock. The theme is "It's a Family Affair: Stories of Ties That Bind Us."