In 1990, a small group of storytellers and storytelling enthusiasts–-spearheaded by Linda Fang and Ann Mesritz–-got together to form the Washington Storytellers Theatre (WST). Their goal was to bring professional storytellers from around the country to the Washington, DC area to perform and teach the art of storytelling. Favorites like Donald Davis, Connie Regan-Blake, Charlotte Blake Alson, and Jon Spelman, who could be seen at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesboro, TN, built a storytelling fan-base in the region.
Inspired by The Green Mill poetry slam in Chicago and Stories at the Moth in New York, then Executive Director Robert Revere, along with the help of performer Leslie Sapp, began The Speakeasy in 1997 as a complement to WST’s mainstage programming. The intent was to give locals and non-professional storytellers a space to tell stories.
The Speakeasy was thriving, so in 2006, Washington Storyellers Theatre changed its name to SpeakeasyDC, discontinued programs that featured out-of-town performers, and focussed entirely on the cultivation of local talent and the development of personal, true stories (as opposed to a combination of personal stories, fiction, and folktale). The new direction brought new programs such as coaching, multi-level classes, curated annual and holiday performances, partnerships with theaters and festivals, corporate trainings, and a podcast. Significant financial support has come from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities and the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation.
In 2012, SpeakeasyDC was nominated for the Mayor's Arts Awards, voted one of top 3 open mics by the Washington City Paper, and named the "gold standard" in storytelling by the Washington Post.
The monthly show was held first at the old Black Cat Club (1997-2000), then moved to HR-57 (2001-2006), then to Cada Vez in 2006 which was remodeled and changed to Station 9 where the event took place until August 2009. Currently, the open mic -- now known as SpeakeasyDC's 2nd Tuesday monthly Series -- takes place at Town Danceboutique at 8th and U Streets, NW, Washington, DC. Our curated shows have taken place as part of Capital Fringe Festival and the Atlas Intersections Festival and we have performed at Sixth & I, Dance Place, Woolly Mammoth, the 9:30 Blub, The Birchmere and more.