Monday, 08 August 2016 03:15

Saigon Storytellers

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Photo by Owen Salisbury

People live through stories. Whether written, oral or visual, they are entertainment, education, bonding, and even part of the construction of society and religion. Recent research even hints that narrative may be a critical part of consciousness itself.


“Stories are an important component to human existence,” says James Dilday, the founder of Saigon Storytellers. “Stories quantify and qualify the human condition. The human brain operates through association. Storytelling seems to us the embodiment of association.”


For James, stories and performance are what he loves. James — who has done stand-up comedy for six years under the stage name Steve Jackson — founded Saigon Storytellers to raise the art and craft of storytelling in Ho Chi Minh city to a higher plane, and to teach all comers how to tell interesting and effective stories to audiences of hundreds.


The group had its first show on Jun. 7 at La Fenetre Soleil on Ly Tu Trong before a packed house. Though some kinks needed working out, the show offered humour, pathos, inspiration and education from local, expat and international performers such as the multi-talented Emily Navarra, LA-based comic Bert Terplinsky and of course James himself.


Based on audience reactions, the eclectic mix succeeded.

Photo by Owen Salisbury

Photo by Owen Salisbury

Photo by Owen Salisbury 

Write, Speak, Share


Though similar to stand-up, storytelling is somewhat new territory for James. “Stand-up comedy’s goal is to elicit laughter. Storytelling’s goal is to share,” he says.


“I went to Adam Palmeter’s Broken Rice open-mic comedy night and told a story from my childhood and afterwards people came up to me and let me know how appreciative they were of me discussing things that were important to them in both an honest and entertaining way. The next day, I began putting together a community to increase local storytelling performances.”


In addition to the performances, Saigon Storytellers offers anyone the chance to be a performer. The group puts on a series of free workshops about storytelling. The workshops teach the creation and writing of effective, interesting stories, and how to perform them in public.


“Storytelling Saigon hopes to continue to develop, and promote the art form of storytelling in [this city],” says James.


According to multiple studies over decades, more people fear public speaking than they do death. Part of Saigon Storytellers’ mission is to help you understand and overcome that fear — the same fear that James himself, of course, had to overcome to become a comic.

Photo by Owen Salisbury

Photo by Owen Salisbury

Stories Are Human


Now he hopes to share what he’s learned — not just with expats, but with the many locals who have come to the show and the workshops.


“While there appear to be several differences in how various cultures tell stories, we believe that those differences are superficial. Deep down, stories are human, just like we all are.”


Saigon Storytellers’ second show will be on Aug. 25 at Koh Thai Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge in Kumho Asiana Plaza. VND100,000 gets you admission and a frosty mug of the finest lager.


The line-up isn’t finalized, so if you are interested in sharing a story with a couple of hundred strangers, sign up via Facebook for Saigon Storytellers’ free workshops.


Who knows? You just might be the next story-telling superstar. 


If you are interested in joining Saigon Storytellers’ free workshops, click on The page also has details about future shows

Photo by Owen Salisbury

Photo by Owen Salisbury

Photo by Owen Salisbury

Last modified on Monday, 08 August 2016 03:28
Owen Salisbury

Owen Salisbury is a fairly typical example of Homo Expatrius. Originally from California, he moved to Vietnam in 2011. He loves to write, take photos, travel, eat well, and learn.

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