Testify is a monthly storytelling show, now in its 7th year, taking place on the last Thursday of the month at the Spider House Ballroom. To date, Testify has brought over 215 storytellers and 386 stories to the stage.
Anchored in the belief that everyone has a story, the storytellers range from professional performers to people standing on a stage for the first time in their lives. Each month has a different theme, and five stories are selected that each reflect different aspects of that theme, connecting the stories and tellers in sometimes surprising ways.
The Testify Team
Kate Caldwell is an Austin native, and a performer and writer with a BA in Theatre and Dance from the University of Texas at Austin. Growing up in a family of informal storytellers, Kate strongly believes in the importance of the art of storytelling and legacy of oral tradition. Kate hates bios but loves fried chicken and whiskey.
Paul Normandin is a large man with a big mouth who loves to tell stories to anyone who can’t run faster than him. Paul loves storytelling so much he founded an Imrpov troupe, In Our Prime that creates plays from audience suggestions. Paul is a self-taught Sunday school teacher who learned to tell tales from the very real and loving feedback of other peoples’ children. Stumbling into the community of performers in Austin at 48, Paul remains constantly humbled to perform.
Angela Maldonado is an improviser, writer and storyteller from Corpus Christi. She’s drawn to narrative improv and loves to perform improvised telenovelas with her Shades of Brown compadres. Angela loves storytelling so much she started a show StoryTime at the Cactus Cafe, with the goal to let people hear some great stories and maybe sign up to tell their own. She’s pretty excited be able to continue to bring people’s stories to the stage.
Keely Hunt is an erstwhile performer, stage manager, director, scenic carpenter, and an active jack of all trades. She is fascinated by all elements of storytelling. After securing her BA in Theater and Dance at the University of Texas, she sowed her wild oats on both coasts before returning to Austin to raise her burgeoning family. Keely cut her teeth empowering the producers of the “Fakest Reality Show Ever” and now offers her fastidious nature to the Testify crew.
Ladi is an artist, improviser, award winning storyteller, and animal lover. He has taken part in story telling events for Testify, I’m from Driftwood, Drinking with the Saints, and the Moth, where he won with a story about sympathetic nausea and what it teaches us about love and connection. Ladi is also an award winning public speaker with Toastmasters International. He is a native Texan who currently resides in Austin with his partner, and two elderly cats who hate each other.
The story of Testify
On a summer night in June of 2013, Kate Caldwell invited Erin Feil, Genevieve Saenz, Kacey Samiee and Abby Ronaldes to a dinner party at her home – one with ulterior motives. Somewhat unbeknownst to the guests – all women with ties to performance communities in Austin – the dinner was actually a brainstorming session on how to put on a live storytelling show and after the meal was eaten and wine was shared, the work began. One of the first challenges was what to call this show, and inspiration came at the tail end of a politically charged summer at the Texas Capital, full of brave women and men offering personal stories as testimony, and the project was named Testify.
It took a few months of planning, scouting, calling in favors, more meetings involving food and a fair amount of nail biting, but they produced their very first show on September 27, 2013 to a sold out audience at the Salvage Vanguard Theater with the aptly chosen theme Creation. Josh Verduzco joined the team as the sound engineer, and Testify was put into motion. The team has changed over time – now produced by Kate Caldwell, Paul Normandin, Angela Maldonado and Keely Hunt – but the mission remains the same, to give people the space and empowerment to tell their stories.