What's in a Story? Maybe New Perspective


Jonathan Morales

"That’s the ultimate goal, to in small ways chip away and create some sort of empathy among people." - Lisa Cantrell

Lisa Cantrell's personal experience in having difficult conversations helped shape her ideas about biographical storytelling.

Lisa Cantrell knows firsthand the power of storytelling. Coming out as LGBT to her conservative parents meant sharing with them her personal experience, including the negative impact their views had on her.

But within that moment, she says, were the first small steps toward understanding.

“The moment it becomes individual, and you say, ‘Here’s my story, and here’s how this hurts me,’ that is what shifts someone else’s perspective,” says Cantrell, an assistant professor of child development.

 “I’ve seen my parents’ minds shift slightly. I’ve seen other people’s minds shift slightly. That’s the ultimate goal, to in small ways chip away and create some sort of empathy among people.”

To bring that concept of empathy-through-storytelling to Sacramento, Cantrell has launched a performance series called “Capital Storytelling.” It is the city’s first such series to emphasize personal or biographical storytelling, as opposed to fictional storytelling.

“Capital Storytelling” launched in April and was to hold its second performance event on Nov. 9 at the Verge Center of the Arts. Cantrell also led two three-week, on-campus workshops, where participants were taught the basics of storytelling and developed their own five- to 10-minute stories.

Cantrell began honing her own storytelling skills a few years ago, when she produced her science education podcast. Upon coming to Sacramento State in fall 2017, she quickly began laying the groundwork for the workshops and performance events.

The stories tend to fall into two categories. Some are lighthearted, such as sharing an embarrassing moment. Others share more personal information about an impactful, and possibly difficult, time in a person’s life. In either case, Cantrell’s goal is to create a space where Sacramentans can come together and learn from each other.

“It fosters community among people,” she says. “You meet people you wouldn’t necessarily meet. You hear a story from someone who may or may not look like you. That fosters some sort of empathy, and that may change your perspective on the world.”


Jonathan Morales


Jonathan Morales became a permanent member of the Sac State communications team in 2017 as a writer and content editor. He previously worked at San Francisco State University and as a newspaper reporter and editor. What appeals to Jonathan? Local beer and Bay Area sports teams.