Third Thursdays

by Sarah Cristine Burrola

Photography courtesy of Noor Nasser

As attendees crowded the front entrance to the museum, the sounds of guitar and percussion music filled the air and led museum-goers down the halls to the courtyard of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. This is where Brazilian Choro trio Chorobop played their contemporary jazz and bebop influenced traditional sounds.

The inviting, lively music that drew in crowds was perfect for this Third Thursdays October theme of month: Passages, inspired by the museum’s Henry James and American Painting exhibition. According to the museum’s website, “Passages is all about the influence of travel on who we are and how we see the world…. focusing on how travel shapes and expands our worldviews.”

Third Thursdays, a special ticketed monthly event, includes access to the museum’s exhibits as well as hands-on art making activities and guided gallery activities. One of these exhibits lead visitors through the halls with vibrantly colored maps and challenges them to take a moment to reflect on their travels, asking “If you could leave tomorrow, where would your next travel adventure take you?”

In line with the Passages theme was another event held as part of the Third Thursday that invited attendees to tell a five-minute story inspired by the theme of travel. Called a StorySLAM, the event was held by the Moth, a New York City-based nonprofit dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling.

The event was held in two rounds of five storytellers each, for a total of 10 stories. Each story was judged by teams of audience members who rated the storyteller’s originality, delivery, memorability, ability to stay in the five-minute time frame and, most importantly, their adherence to the theme: travel. Audience members got to interact by filling out slips of paper describing their travel mishaps and funny anecdotes to be read in between stories. At the end, a winner was chosen, and everyone walked away with something more to think about. The stories, while some being lighthearted or even humorous, all attempted to strike the attendees into a different way of conceptualizing what travel can mean to a person.

Lucy Levin (COM ’20) was an attendee. She grew up listening to the Moth’s radio hour on NPR in the car as a child with her mother, Levin says she was drawn to the story slam in Boston because she wanted to hear about people’s experiences in her new home city.

“I love the honesty and vulnerability of people that actually go on stage and tell their stories at slams, and I’m definitely planning on going to more of them,” she said.

And for good reason, as the stories themselves were anything but forgettable. One storyteller told of her failed long-distance romance, in which she constantly flew between the US and Sweden, only to find love at home. Another told of his experience of road-tripping from Massachusetts to California at the height of the Vietnam War, spending the entire experience hitchhiking and agonizing over whether or not he was to be drafted, and the uncertainty of what happened to one young man he hitched a ride with that still haunts him today.

These little vignettes into other people’s lives is what drew Kaelyn Tindall (COM ’20) to attending the event. Recommended to attend Third Thursday by a friend, she said that the story slam was definitely her favorite part of the event, because stories are what lead people to meaningful connection.

“I think sharing stories is the best way for us to start to understand each other,” she said. “It's a chance to get a peek at another person’s life whether that be their struggles, their triumphs, or just what they had for breakfast.”

Make sure to stop by the next Third Thursdays at the Gardener to hear more stories of people from around the world and experience a whole