Curtain call: Out of the Loop 6 takes the stage

East Texas storytellers and performers presented a tour de force, one-of-a-kind storytelling show Saturday, Nov. 6 at Rogers Palmers Performing Arts Center. Eight storytellers, a spoken word poet, a guitarist, a tambourine-wielding vocalist and a pair of jugglers took the stage at Out of the Loop’s sixth season — The Tyler Loop’s first live storytelling event in two years.

Whether you missed the show or want to relive its highlights, here’s a peek into the stories and acts of the evening.

An hour before showtime, storytellers gathered in the green room to chat and practice lines. At 6:40 p.m., one storyteller confessed, “I’m getting nervous, guys.” Several more agreed. 📷 all photos by Jamie Maldonado
As the house lights went dark, Billy Harrell picked up his tambourine and led the crowd in “Grandma’s Hands” by Bill Withers. Later, Harrell switched from singer to storyteller, recalling growing up with gospel music in North Tyler. Music became a through line throughout the decades, taking him to Memphis, Los Angeles, funeral homes and bedsides.
“Mental health is just as important as physical health.” Kaila Fraim took the mic to tell how anxiety, a shocking family loss and COVID impacted her senior year at Whitehouse High School. Two instructors at Tyler Junior College, along with a skilled therapist and mentors, provided much-needed support to help turn the tide.
Higinio Fernández Sánchez grew up eating turkey legs at the East Texas State Fair and dressing as a pumpkin for Halloween as he walked his neighborhood near Douglas Elementary School. Later, when his undocumented status stood in the way of attending nursing school, he took the advice of a Tyler Junior College counselor and went to Mexico City to seek a student visa. Little did he know 10 years would pass before he would be able to return home to see his family. Now a research nurse in Houston and a year away from completing his doctoral program, Fernández Sánchez had a message for undocumented teens and for the people of Tyler.
Flora Farago awoke to the sound of shattered glass when a brick was thrown through her window on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Farago talked about her life in Nacogdoches, Texas as a white advocate, ally and educator for Black lives. Her entrée into seeking justice for all? Her great-grandparents, who were victims of the Holocaust in Hungary; and her grandparents, who survived the Holocaust thanks to the kindness of neighbors.
“Don’t you see that I want to be free from the cries of broken lives?” Athens, Texas spoken word poet Brianna Coleman riveted the audience with her original poem, “Locked.”
The crowd delighted in a post-intermission juggling performance by Spencer Androli and Paul Haygood.
The “oohs” and “ahhs” crescendoed when the stage went dark and Androli and Haygood passed light-up clubs high into the air.
Charles Parkes III began and ended his story with an early childhood memory in a line of preschool children in Palestine, Texas. In-between, Parkes walked the audience through his experience with bigotry in a job he held in Tyler. He told how he handled the situation, how it impacted him and how his current job at East Texas Food Bank is a breath of fresh air.
Carina Alvarado grew up in Edom, Texas and moved to Tyler as a young adult. “Ten years ago, I would say, ‘I can’t wait to get out of here,'” she said. That sentiment has changed as Alvarado has undergone major transformation through the help of a psychological counselor. Understanding Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and how to cope has helped Alvarado create a new life for herself in Tyler.
Dan Crawford took the mic and recounted the night of June 2, 2021, when a trip to the emergency room and a police search led to his resignation as principal of Tyler Legacy High School. Crawford talked about a decades-long dependence on intoxicating substances; the fallout from his arrest and resignation; and the people who have reached out to help him find sobriety and friendship.
Eighth and final storyteller Brandon Davidson took the crowd on a comedic ride as he surmised about the McDonald’s McGriddle, Tyler clowns and spitting chewing gum out of the car window. Davidson’s story took a serious turn about deaths by suicide in East Texas and the work in suicide prevention still needed.
After the final bow, The Tyler Loop board chair Neal Katz encouraged an applauding audience to donate to The Tyler Loop during the NewsMatch Campaign, which provides 1:1 matches for donations between now and Dec. 31.
Some guests at the show reached out to us the following day.
“My family had a wonderful time, and we had many things to talk about on the way home.”
“I loved every second of it.”
“…a wonderful night of sharing, connection and thought.”
“It was especially needed after going through the pandemic.”
“Such talent on that stage.”
“I laughed and cried and felt every emotion possible.”

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Jane Neal is the executive director of The Tyler Loop and storytelling director of Out of the Loop: True Stories about Tyler and East Texas. In addition to the Loop, she works at the Literacy Council of Tyler and Tyler Public Library. Jane is a certified interfaith spiritual guide. She is a member of Leadership Tyler Class 33 and a former teacher of French at Robert E. Lee High School, where she ran a storytelling program called Senior Stories. Jane and her husband Don have four children.
An East Texas native, Jamie Maldonado has worked as a visual journalist and copy editor for the Longview News-Journal, The Denver Post, and other publications. He is a professional photographer and creates YouTube content about film photography. Taking to heart Dorothea Lange’s quote, “a camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera,” Jamie has turned his lens on his hometown and its people to see it all anew.
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