Seven East Texans quelled their nerves and entered Liberty Hall in downtown Tyler on Saturday. They practiced lines, tested microphones and cracked jokes — last-hour preparations before taking the stage to tell true, personal stories to family members, friends and strangers.
If you missed Out of the Loop 7: True Stories from Tyler and East Texas, here is a brief recap. From cock fights to musical secrets to a car crash requiring 21 surgeries, the lineup told brave, relatable stories to a riveted audience.
Although crafting a story begins with a one-one-one meeting, followed by multiple drafts, texts, phone calls and more meetings — it only comes to fruition when someone takes the stage before an audience. On this night, the crowd received the storytellers with open arms. Applause, laughter and tears flowed generously.
Vocalist Kendall Phillips opened the show with an a capella version of “Killing Me Softly.”
“I was two seconds away from having a panic attack,” exclaimed Sorayda Rivera. Rivera challenged the audience to consider their East Texas neighbors with physical disabilities as fellow humans, worthy of parking space, representation and not to be feared.
High school junior Colten Edelman wove together a moving story including themes of disordered eating, toxic sports culture, embracing a queer identity, the benefits of going to therapy and yes, cupcakes.
PJ Dullard says he’s one of the nine people hailing from New London, Texas. Dullard had the crowd in stitches recounting an early assignment in his long career with Child Protective Services. The operation to raid an East Texas cock fight turned into a lesson about keeping levity and perspective on the job and in life.
“There are worse things than dying,” said Dr. Laura Ferguson, palliative care physician. Ferguson told how her experience taking care of her grandmother with dementia set the stage for her life as a physician. Ferguson champions giving patients and families options as they make end-of-life plans.
Intermission allowed guests to mingle in-between story sets.
The Alumni Quartet
Left to right: Tyler Junior College alumni Robin Bibeau, Alyssa Wyatt, Ian Findlay and Tristan Hill performed two guitar pieces conducted by Professor Franklin Kimlicko.
Cate Carrejo took the mic to share how a seemingly harmless incident wherein she and her wife were propositioned reflected larger issues of safety, sexual assault, anxiety and an often-unspoken culture in East Texas. Carrejo challenged women who had endured sexual assault to speak out and break the cycle of violence and silence.
Today, Lonesha McCorvey is one week away from graduating as a registered nurse. But three years earlier, she was in a near-fatal car crash that led to losing her arm; the grief of not being able to care for her son; and 21 harrowing surgeries. McCorvey encouraged the audience to keep trying. “There is nothing to be gained in not trying,” she said.
A guitar professor of 50 years at Tyler Junior College, Professor Franklin Kimlicko charmed the audience with the final story of the evening. Kimlicko recounted the summers he and his family spent in the home of guitar maestro Pepe Romero. One day, a favor for Pepe’s father, Celedonio Romero, allowed Kimlicko to receive a gift: the secret of guitar playing. He now shares this treasured secret with his students.
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