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Florida Matters: Story Days In Tampa Bay

Story Days in Tampa Bay recently hosted its fifth annual festival in St. Petersburg. This week on Florida Matters we hear excerpts from a performance  that reflects on Hurricanes Irma and Maria a year after the storms.

Story Days in Tampa Bay is an annual week-long festival that uses music, dance, theater and art to tell the stories of people in our community. It's hosted by the nonprofit Your Real Stories.

One of the events at this year's festival was called "Irma and Maria: Hurricane Stories One Year Later." It featured stories from survivors of the two storms told in the style of theatrical journalism.

Your Real Stories' Executive Director Lillian Dunlap and Artistic Director Jaye Sheldon spent hours interviewing people affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

They used the interviews to craft scripts which actors performed in front of an audience at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg. This week we hear excerpts from that performance.

We hear the story of St. Petersburg resident Jonathan French, who worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration when the storms hit. His story was performed by actor Christopher Rutherford.

We also hear the story of Hurricane Maria survivor Leslie Diaz, who moved to Tampa Bay after the storm. Actress Jessy Julianna performed Leslie's story in Spanish, while actress Isabel Natera read the English translation.

Following the storytelling performances, actors discussed the experience and reflected on their own hurricane stories. We hear excerpts from that conversation, as well as part of a spontaneous play they performed based on an audience questionnaire.

Other performers featured in the show include Roxanne Faye and Cranston Cumberbatch.

You can hear Florida Matters host Robin Sussingham speak with Your Real Stories Executive Director Lillian Dunlap about the inspiration for this festival on our podcastFlorida Matters More.

I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.
Robin Sussingham was Senior Editor at WUSF until September 2020.