True Stories Told Live is celebrating their 10th anniversary with an unforgettable night that will showcase some of their all-time favourite stories and storytellers. The event is happening at The Garrison on Dundas West (March 27); expect a packed room full of curious listeners of all ages and walks of life, uproarious laughter, tense moments, waves of deep emotions, and transformative human connection.

The beloved (and I mean really beloved) event was created by Marsha Shandur, who bubbles over with passion when asked about storytelling. “When you listen to stories it gives you that sense of connection, especially when you’re able to do it live. And part of that is what’s happening in your brain,” she tells me, giddy about the science. “Your brain thinks that the story is happening to you. So when you’re listening to a well-told story, in a room full of people, your brains are all lighting up in the same place at the same time. Like a giant, benign alien invasion. Storytelling is like growing empathy.”

Photo by Connie Tsang

Even over the phone, it’s obvious that Marsha is a natural storyteller, but there is an art to storytelling that she has honed over the years, and helped many others with. Her dedication to storytelling eventually evolved into a full-time career, with a robust roster of clients including Facebook, RBC, Shopify, HelloFresh and Loblaws. 

Marsha explains that she’s often hired to host workshops for sales teams. “If you want to sell in a way that’s effective but also ethical, like you don’t want to bully someone into buying, you need good communication skills,” she explains, listing off questions to consider like, who are you speaking to? What do you think about them? “You have to make a human connection with them…you can tell a story about what their life is like before they buy your product or service. And then you can tell a story about how great their life is gonna be afterwards, and they can connect to it in a way that you can’t if you just list a bunch of facts.”

True Stories Told Live started as most things do: small and with a handful of individuals excited to try something new. The very first event was held at The Common, a tiny rough-around-the-edges coffee shop in Toronto’s west end. “It was quiet. It was my best friend from the age of 10, my friend Connie and my mum, and I think the storytellers brought a few people, and that was pretty much it.” But it quickly grew and within a couple months, Marsha moved the event to The Garrison, which could accommodate much larger audiences. 

Since that first quiet night, True Stories Told Live has hosted over 300 storytellers. Authentic connection is a human need, and Marsha has created an event that serves it well. Beyond packed audiences, with often 200 dedicated listeners, the demand to tell a story is so high that there’s a years-long waitlist. Given all of this, selecting who will perform at the 10-year anniversary event was not an easy task for Marsha. But the lineup she has planned will definitely move audiences in all sorts of ways.

“It was rough to have to put it together, but I’m really happy with the stories that we have. We have a lot of brilliant headliners we’ve had in the past.” For first-time attendees, Marsha paints a picture of what to expect, “The way that storytelling connects us, it weirdly bonds you to everybody else in the room. I’ve seen it when we have really heavy stories, people stagger around like we’ve all been through something together, because we have,” she describes, remarking how warm and welcoming the space is. “People often come by themselves with a book so if you want to you will absolutely not be alone.  And it’s something that you will remember for the rest of your month, year, maybe even for the rest of your life.”

The 10th anniversary of True Stories Told Live is happening March 27th at The Garrison. 1197 Dundas St West. Doors open at 6:45PM, and stories start promptly at 7:30PM. Storytellers featured include Naseem Hrab, Chris Graham, Jonathan Ramatour, Rick Jones, Salley Hakim, Ato Chan, Arianne Shaffer, Scott Hammell, Zabrina Douglas and more! Head to the event page to purchase your ticket.