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October 25, 2014

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What happens in Vegas: Local storytelling events give a voice to tales of life in L.V. and beyond

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Sean Breckling

Dayvid Figler and Heather Hyte host “The Tell.”

Everyone has a "Vegas story," but not quite like Las Vegans do. And that's exactly why local attorney and Las Vegas native Dayvid Figler created "The Tell," a free storytelling event where locals and others get together to share true, unscripted stories from their own lives based on themes like "The Big Move" and "Cheating."

"Storytelling has been around since the first water bison wandered into a campsite. There's a culture behind it -- from coast to coast, there are storytelling events that are unique to each city, and I thought why doesn't Vegas of all places have one?" Figler, himself a veteran storyteller and poet, explains.

Figler organized the first "Tell" in November 2010, and the event, which he co-hosts along with local Heather Hyte, has been held every few months since. The sixth "Tell" is tonight at El Cortez as part of the Neon Reverb festival and features the theme "Family, Dynamic."

Since its inception, "The Tell" has been regularly packing El Cortez's Fiesta Room with as many as 200 attendees. Performers range from gallerists to actors to UNLV professors who take turns telling 10-minute stories based on the night's theme. Among tonight's storytellers are actors Kat Foster ("Weeds," "Til Death") and David Liebe Hart ("Tim and Eric Awesome Show").

While performers have heretofore been invite-only, Figler says local interest in participation has been so overwhelming that "The Tell" has begun hosting smaller open-mic-style events at the Beat downtown. The second of these "Small Tales" gatherings will be held Thursday, April 12, with subsequent open mics happening the second Thursday of every month.

Similar to NPR's Moth Story Slams held throughout the country, interested "Small Tales" storytellers will be able to submit their name on the night of the event to be chosen at random to speak on that night's theme. Each storyteller will be limited to 4 minutes of time. The event is free, and though it's not a competition, performers will be awarded prizes.

For Figler, events like these are more than just entertainment -- they're opportunities to build and explore local identity in a city with a notoriously elusive past.

"The point is to find the Vegas story that would otherwise go untold, the one that unites us in our identity as people who live here," he says, recalling the story of a local landscaper who literally ran away from the circus at 15, and another about a group of friends who owned a lounge above a notorious escort service. However, while he sees the events as a way for locals to learn about their city, he's quick to note that the events are not restricted to stories about life in Vegas.

"We’re the melting pot of the melting pot. Most people who are here are probably from somewhere else," he says. "And learning who the people in your city are isn’t just about the city you live in."

Today's "Tell" takes place in the El Cortez Fiesta Room at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7. Entry is free for Neon Reverb wristband holders and $5 for others. 21+ up only. For a full list of performers and more information, visit the event's Facebook page.

Follow Andrea Domanick on Twitter at @AndreaDomanick and fan her on Facebook at Facebook.com/AndreaDomanick.

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