Meet Clara Davis of Live Storytelling Platform, Unravel

Connecting people within the community.

by Sarah Forman | Thu, January 18, 2018

Clara Davis, formerly of the bar District and currently of the soon-to-open food incubator, Hatchery, runs a live storytelling platform called Unravel here in Shanghai. The monthly event has been connecting people within the community for almost a year, while forging one of its own. We sat down with her to talk about what it's all about.

Clara Davis

What is Unravel?

Unravel is a storytelling platform, a monthly live show. At each show a group of storytellers recount authentic stories from their real lives loosely inspired by a given theme. Each show is a unique combination of venue, theme, and storyteller lineup.

What inspired you to start the project?

I’ve lived in Shanghai for nearly five years, and my time here has afforded me all sorts of unpredicted opportunities, encounters, and challenges. There is something uniquely layered and dynamic to living here; it’s a city of stories. It can also feel extremely overstimulating, and at times, isolating – lonely in a crowd and all that. Unravel speaks to both these conditions – on the one hand creating space for the multitude of stories and characters this city cultivates, and on the other hand creating space for engaged listening and connection that’s sometimes otherwise hard to find.

Unravel Shanghai

How involved are you in the storytelling process?

Unravel is a bit of a different format from open-mic or story slams in that it’s curated in advance – interested storytellers pitch their stories and we work together to make sure content, delivery, and relationship to the theme are all in alignment. The basic process is reaching out via email or in person with a simple pitch that somehow connects to the given theme, and then a bit of back and forth between myself and the storyteller where I attempt to offer constructive feedback on how to cap- ture their story most effectively. Often, storytellers need very little of my help!

What are some of the challenges you face?

One unique challenge is helping draw the distinction between a “story” and a speech or a talk. I think most of us are more accustomed to the latter formats – which don’t necessarily need to be narrative driven. Oftentimes storytellers initially come to me with a terriffic idea for a speech, and we end up working together to convert it into a story that takes the audience on a journey from a beginning, through a middle, to an end.

Unravel Shanghai

What's your favorite thing about Unravel?

One of the most amazing things about organizing the live shows is how different each has managed to be. We’ve had the pleasure of hosting at some awesome venues across the city, as well as the opportunity to work with incredible community partners. The energy of the storytellers and the audience members are what make the show – and that always feels distinct and special.

Storytellers have come from all walks of Shanghai (and outside Shanghai) life – from a 78-year-old’s digital leap of faith to a drag king and queen’s fateful night out in Bangkok; from gaming politics at the World Monopoly Championship to the gen- dered politics of graduating university as a woman in Kansas City, Missouri circa 1975. The stories come from everywhere and everyone, and that’s what’s most important to us.

Storybooks

Good to know

Unravel is held in a different location on the last Thursday of every month. To learn more, check out:

  • Website: unravellive.com
  • Instagram: unravel.shanghai
  • WeChat: unravelshanghai