Sunday, February 5, 2012

Words: Jeff Hardison

Jeff Hardison is from Kentucky, and he tells stories.  Jeff has worked his magic at local storytelling and performance venues such as BackFencePDX, Ignite Portland, and at a series he co-founded, Blather
Jeff was also picked to tell a story at the recent Louisville stop of The Moth’s live event. He somehow manages to squeeze in time for a day job with a mobile-software company.
Jeff will be onstage at Works, and agreed to answer to a few questions for us via e-mail.

Q. A Google search has revealed the following facts about you: Fact #1: You registered for a Soda Stream for your wedding. Fact #2: You know Britt Daniels. Fact #3: You are the grandson of a preacher. Fact #4: You hate mayonnaise.  Can you give us a fifth fact that will make our understanding of Jeff Hardison complete?   
A. Yikes. Fifth fact: We are not our search engine results. Let's talk about one of those results instead. I love me some Soda Stream action. Push hard on that button until it sounds like it's going to blow up. Then, keep pressing about nine more times until there's enough carbonation in that water that you get indigestion from drinking it – even five days later. Creating your own soda is a childhood dream come true.
Q. Your persona as an elementary school kid: Clown? Troublemaker?  The shy one? Other?  Do you still identify with your kid-self, or is everything all different now?
A. Today, I feel similar to the elementary school kid. Shy in situations with new people. Troublemaker once I get comfortable.
Do we ever change, really? Perhaps our strengths and weaknesses--our light and darks sides--wax and wane depending on how much self-control we want to exert.
Q. How did you come to stand on stages and tell stories – and why do you keep doing it?
A. I grew up in theater and chorus and all of those performing arts. But there was something about the act of interpreting someone else's work that fell short for me. About the same time I had that falling out with theater, I fell in love with literature: Nothing makes me feel less alone than a good book. In college, I majored in literature, yet missed interpreting the written word on stage.
Storytelling offers me the opportunity to wed two artistic endeavors I love, theater and writing, in a way that feels very comfortable.
Regarding what keeps me going, I guess the popular thing to say is "Because I have to--I must express myself." But that's not the case for me. I'll only tell stories for as long as event organizers ask me to do it. Whether it's playing drums in a band or writing or telling stories, my worst nightmare is to be that person begging to be noticed.
Q. Many of the stories you tell are unrehearsed. Have you ever been really surprised by something you said on stage?
A. In day-to-day life, I say inappropriate things all of the time. Therefore, I never feel shocked by anything I say in the moment. However, looking back, I'm often surprised that I had ever thought something would be taken as funny or poignant. When, in retrospect, it wasn't.
I must say I do enjoy making people feel slightly uncomfortable – without going too far. Whatever the fashionable ideology is at the time, I enjoy messing with it.
Q. Can you give us a little preview of the story you’re planning to tell at Works?
A. Many of my stories are about forgiveness. Offering it and withholding it. This story will be another one about that value.
Photo by Inger Klekacz 


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