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We Got Lip Service in Traffic Last Night

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So the title of this post may seem a bit sensational and possibly even tawdry, but let us assure you that the Lip Service we received yesterday was totally legal, even if some of the content violated many traffic laws.

We're talking about the quarterly storytelling show, Lip Service: True Stories Out Loud, where local anybodies are chosen to stand up on stage and share their true personal stories in front of a sold-out crowd at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables.

This time, organizers Andrea Askowitz and Esther Martinez asked the community to submit 1,200-word stories on the theme of traffic, and 71 brave souls obliged. Eight of the most entertaining reads were selected for performance last night, which was co-sponsored by The Green Mobility Network, an organization that promotes health in Miami-Dade by encouraging residents to use their feet and bikes instead of cars.

Always-kooky Andrea Askowitz donned a traffic safety outfit that increased in ridiculousness with every new storyteller she announced. A fluorescent orange vest gained a helmet, a flag protruding from her back, and flashing LCD lights that adhered to her shoulders. This all culminated in her flying across the stage on a unicycle while juggling (poorly).

Adam Schachner, a high school teacher, read For Cluck's Sake, about his extraordinary efforts to prevent the eviction of a local rooster who is also a mascot for bicycle riders in South Florida. The account followed him and 11 other adults who dressed in chicken costumes and pedaled about town in efforts to save the bird from homelessness. The rooster, by the way, died anyway. Oh, and Schachner's high school students saw him flapping around as a ranting chicken man on the news.

Sarah Klein, a yoga instructor, shared a somber tale called Cracked Rib. A lot of Lip Service stories are humorous, but this one was an exception. Klein painted a vivid portrait of a chaotic and uncomfortable upbringing, set in motion by her reckless and erratic father. Her story sliced into the moments after her father rolled a car three times across an icy Michigan highway with herself, her little brother, and her dog inside. They walked for miles through blizzard until they found a welcoming home where they could make a call and get warm, and the lost and frightened little girl she was never wanted to leave.

Then came Tammy Green, a talent agent who harbors an until-now hidden talent of her own (this performance marked her first time on stage since preschool), who shared Both Sides of the Road, which detailed her exasperating experiences serving as a referee for two marginal drivers: one, her 85-year-old father, the other her 17-year-old daughter.

Unit 12 was another serious story from Nicholas Garnett. The theme of traffic opens up the doors to a lot of tragic accident stories, and this was one of them. He shared about how his neighbor's young son, a recent Harvard grad, had died in a fatal motorcycle accident, and how the news made him reevaluate his love affair with his own motorcycle.

Maureen Daniel Fura then dragged her very pregnant belly into the spotlight (Askowitz darted on stage to mark the stool she perched on with two bright orange hazard cones) to recount a supposed-to-be-spiritual journey she took years ago, entailing an anticlimactic 19-mile walk through the desert. (She did reap a valuable lesson from the experience, if only in hindsight.)

Next, MFA student Donovan Ortega delivered a beautifully and bravely honest account of his involvement at an accident scene off Yamato Road. He revealed that he was hoping he could somehow save someone, though he had no special skills in this area, and then go on to give an extremely humble interview to News Channel 5, as he had rehearsed in his daydreams so many times before. "I just do what I have to do," he would say. He was a straight-faced riot.

Jeffrey Weinstock, a talented Lip Service veteran and a teacher at the University of Miami, gave us Traffic Alert!, a creative and masterful spin on the theme of traffic, giving us a blurted, free-association peek into the weird world that is his cranium. And then co-organizer Esther Martinez got up to finally, really admit that although it is kind of funny, her giving herself a full manicure while driving actually, really, definitely makes her a Bad Driver.

Lip Service will soon be accepting its next round of true, personal stories. If you have the guts to write one and submit it, go to the Lip Service website and get started.

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