SoloWeek Interview: Eli Reiter

Next up in my series of SoloWeek DIY interviews, we hear from Eli Reiter. His show, Get Lost: Stories from South Africa, will premiere on Tuesday, December 8th at 7pm. Get more info and tickets here.

What’s your show about?
My show takes place over a seven day trip in South Africa. I went there without a plan after finding a “price mistake” online on Christmas. You could say that it was the first Christmas that I’ve ever observed. I seemed to find myself getting into trouble every day and every time someone came to my my aid. The show is about travel but equally about the kindness of strangers. The show’s setting may be around the world, but I dealt with things there that I struggle with as a New Yorker. Loneliness, feeling connected with strangers I see on the subway, feeling lost among a sea of people.

Why did you create it?
Because the producer asked me to. Nisse Greenberg asked me to and I obliged. I always wanted to write this experience out. But more on that later.

Who is your show for?
People who love travel and people who hate people. On the internet, after seeing a nice video of a stranger doing a good deed, many commenters will write, “My faith in humanity is restored.” I don’t know how I feel about such platitudes, but I do hope that the show will question your hatred of strangers. The show will also be good for fans of suspense, intrigue, and sexual tension. (Although, spoiler alert, I survived.)

Have you done anything like this before?
For more than the last 2 years, I’ve hosted a longform storytelling show, Long Story Long. Storytellers are given thirty minutes to tell stories. I’ve been lucky enough to have most SoloFest performers on my show. Indeed, many shows started as LSL stories. And, from my host’s chair, I learned about what worked and what didn’t work in a longer format. Five minute stories are 800 words, longer ones can be ten or twenty thousand. That’s scary. While I’m usually a minimalist host, barely telling a short story as a warm up, lately I’ve been experimenting with longer stories. This will be my first one hour solo show.

How are you making use of theatrical or technological elements?
I collect experiences, not pictures. So I don’t have that many pictures from the trip.

What else have you done in storytelling?
I’ve been telling stories since 2011/2012. Scared of The Moth stage, I started telling stories at storytelling open mic hosted by the comedian John Flynn called Oh Hey Guys. He’s in a better place now (Los Angeles.) But his support and the support of many performers, including the artistic director Nisse Greenberg, has helped me along the way.

Additionally, I have been a story coach for The Moth on and off for the last 3 years. Teaching is much more empowering and enjoyable than performing. It has also allowed me to be more critical and turn the lens of coach on my own stories.

Where do you think storytelling is headed? As an art form? As a commercial medium?
There are two things happening. Television is becoming more experimental. There are shows that never would have stood a chance even ten years ago. (Transparent, Arrested Development, OINTB, w Bob and David, the list goes on and on.)

Fringe ideas are flourishing now. (A television show based on a Coen Brothers movie?)

The other trend is that storytelling as an art form is growing. Yesterday was the 20 year anniversary of This American Life. That’s a long time ago! Things have changed. I think it’s inevitable that these two forces will work together: the “long tail” of television and the popularity of storytelling and it will mean only one thing: a storytelling TV show. I imagine it will have some combination of person onstage and flashbacks to reenactments, but that’s just one idea.

Also, I think (and hope!) that storytellers will write books. Maybe memoirs, maybe essays. The Moth is now working on a second book, a collection of 40 stories. (Their first book was an instant bestseller.) David Crabb, Selena Coppock, Margot Leitman, and Steve Osborne are all storytellers that have written books.

What else should be know about you and what you’re doing?
I’m writing a memoir about being Ultra-Orthodox Jew and dealing with the conflicts of the Western World. About having one foot in both worlds and how I am pulled in both directions at once. Are there any agents reading this?

Anything else you’d like to plug?
Like the Long Story Long FB page please: https://www.facebook.com/StoriedPast

Where can we find you (web, Twitter, etc.)
I neglect many mediums.
I write a lot of micro-essays on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PeanutButterAndEli
Follow me:
Tumblr: http://reiterthewriter.tumblr.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/411eli

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