Q&A :: Matt Roden from Life Lines

December 5th 2012

What even is a storytelling night? Is it like that time in year six when we got buddied up with old people from the local nursing home and they told me the tale of how they met their husband on Thursday mornings at 10am?

Not really. The past few years have seen a resurgence of appreciation for the art of storytelling, through podcasts, live radio and events. Listen to The Moth (if not, here is your homework), or This American Life, or FBi’s very own storytelling and documentary program All The Best? Perhaps you’re a fan of Penguin Plays Rough, an evening (and now a book!) with a more literary bent which focuses on exciting new fiction. Maybe you’ve been heading along to Confession Booth. Matt Roden is the organiser of Confession Booth and in the tradition of spending a long time reading about people on Wikipedia, or being grossed out by how interested your Grandma is in the obituary section of the newspaper, he’s just announced a brand new event. Life Lines: Biography by Oratory.

This Is Someone Else’s Life, with film lady Kate Jinx of Too Much, Andrew P.Street from Time Out, writer and editor Aden Zolfe, FBi’s Shag, and crafty lady Kitiya Palaskas. Host Matt Roden will also be telling somebody’s story, and stopped to tell us a bit more.

So the orators are telling other people’s stories, right? Were they assigned homework or allowed to roam freely about the internets in search of a subject?

The readers for the night were given free reign to decide on their people of interest. They’re all intelligent people with varied interests, so I figured they’d be able to pull a life story or two from their interactions with the world at large. I think sometimes the only time we hear about people’s entire lives is when they pass away, and then we quickly forget about them. At the risk of turning everyone’s life into a series of Greatest Moments, we’ll try and show what funny, bizarre, curious, coincidental and fragmented lives everyone leads, from Greta Garbo to Henry Parkes to Bruce Wayne.

I think everyone knows the story of someone which may not be common knowledge, whether it’s a relative, neighbour, or just some historically obscure figure that you read about in university and who’s stuck in your head ever since. On the other hand, if someone wants to pull a Rosencrantz and Guildernstern on the secret life of Janine from the Ghostbusters I’d be all ears.

Will you be telling somebody’s story?

I will! I will be behind the microphone, in front of the audience, telling the tales and adventures of… someone. I think I’ll be keeping it a secret until the night. But I will be holding a fake book like Mike Munro on This Is Your Life, if that’s an incentive for undecided punters. But the main event is really our readers – writers, DJs, poets, designers and reviewers, sharing a life with the audience that they think is pretty exciting.

You’ve mentioned you’re keen to build up a family of reading and performance nights at World Bar- what else are you thinking about putting on?

We’re already lining up our first Confession Booth for the new year. Hostess A.H.Cayley is collecting her guests as we speak. I’d love to do another Tod Talks, too, though host Max Lavergne’s endless rise to fame and success makes him hard to pin down. The inaugural Tod Talks, the equally pretentious and misguided sibling to the Ted Talk phenomena, covered such ground as the mysteries of twins, creativity and whether your skeleton is just a bunch of rocks you’re being forced to carry around. We need to keep informing the people on these topics.

As for other story telling nights, between the local scene and ideas conceived overseas, it can be a little hard coming up with an original concept. The next one going forward may be in the mould of a public Hollywood pitch meeting, where we ask people to tell us the plot of an unmade movie, complete with dream casts and directors. If we can put together a good line up, look out for that one in February

Any plans to record or publish the stories?

You can hear some recordings of our previous Confession Booths over at our site. FBi has recorded a couple of Confession Booths for All The Best – the only problem is that they haven’t yet put on a show with the theme “That Time I Pooped My Pants”. When they do I think you’ll hear some of our Confessors in their element. I think as the stories are generally written to be read, there’s value in hearing them rather than reading, so maybe keep an ear out for some Life Lines in the future too (but really you should just come and see them performed live!).

Will there be palm readings?

Maybe. Perhaps just a blurry averaging of the entire audience’s life expectancy.

Does your grandmother really read the obituaries obsessively?

I don’t know. It might just be my habit of stereotyping the elderly. I think she’s more of an avid TV Guide follower these days.

Confession Booth often has a wildcard entry – will audience members be able to get up and tell the story of somebody they know (or don’t?)

We will have a couple of games I believe – something along the lines of Who Am I, as enjoyed by Sale of the Century enthusiasts and smart asses at pub trivia, with free drink prizes. We’ll definitely try and give the audience a chance to show off their knowledge, if not their courage this time around.


What: Life Lines – Biography by Oratory. A new storytelling night.

Where: The World Bar, Darlinghurst

When: Wednesday Dec 5, 7.30pm

How much? Nada, if you rsvp here


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