Stories on Stage was founded in January 2010 by writer Valerie Fioravanti as a way to inspire and connect with fellow writers in the Sacramento area. Using the NPR series “Selected Shorts,” which originated in her native New York, as a model, Fioravanti set out to create a reading series that combined storytelling with theatre. From the onset, the monthly gathering offered two fiction writers, one an established, often widely published author, and one selected from submitted manuscripts by the many emerging writers in Sacramento’s burgeoning literary scene. Each piece was performed by a local actor, with casting originally handled by Fioravanti and later turned over to local actress Victoria Goldblatt. In 2012, Sacramento playwright, promoter and producer Peggi Wood assumed the role of Casting Director.
During its first few years, Stories on Stage hosted such acclaimed authors as Andrew Foster Altschul, Angie Chau, Christian Kiefer, Peter Orner, Lynn Freed, and Melinda Moustakis. Recognized in several Sacramento publications as a haven for local writers and fans of the written word, Stories on Stage gained traction and received funding through a grant from Sacramento Region Community Foundation in 2013.
In the fall of 2013, Fioravanti stepped down as director and writer Sue Staats took over as the new coordinator for Stories on Stage. Under Staats’ leadership, 2014 and 2015 were banner years for Stories on Stage, with literary giants such as Tobias Wolff, Anthony Marra, Ann Packer, and Pulitzer Prize winner/National Book Award winner Adam Johnson garnering record-breaking audiences. In addition, Staats forged a partnership with Verge Center for the Arts, which was the setting for several widely attended events, including the first-ever multiple actor dramatic reading from T. Geronimo Johnson’s Welcome to Braggsville. 2015 also saw the addition of short play previews for local theatre companies, such as KOLT Run and Celebration Arts, and The Avid Reader was welcomed as the event bookseller, ensuring that audiences would be able to obtain copies of a featured author’s books on the spot.
Stories on Stage Sacramento continued to attract top writing talent in 2016: such nationally known writers as Anthony Marra (back for a second visit), science fiction great Kim Stanley Robinson, and National Book Award finalist Bonnie Jo Campbell were among the featured writers, a stellar list which also included Vendela Vida, Lori Ostlund, and Jodi Angel. In an effort to promote and foster local writing programs, Staats created an annual event featuring the best writing from the four literary journals produced by the creative writing departments of the Los Rios Community College campuses. In 2016 it became apparent that the Stories on Stage Sacramento had outgrown its original home, the Sacramento Poetry Center. After “test runs” in several venues, including Verge Center for the Arts, Stories on Stage Sacramento selected the auditorium at CLARA (The E Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts) as its new home beginning in January 2017. With a homey-yet-capacious feel, seating for 200, and excellent acoustics, this new venue will accommodate an audience that has grown from an average of 40 in the early years to between eighty and a hundred people at each event.