Sign on door

Torontonians bare their souls to strangers at True Stories Toronto.

Why one woman shared her heartfelt story

Grace Smith is used to lecturing for hours. As a graduate finishing her PhD in theatre history at the University of Toronto, she is used to presenting herself in front of a crowd. She has even done standup and improv acting.

On Tuesday night, Smith was given only 10 minutes. But it was enough.

Smith was one of the performers at True Stories Toronto, held at the Garrison on Dundas Street West. True Stories (told live) Toronto allows people from the city to come out and tell a story about themselves, in any form they choose. This means music, art and poetry is welcome.

“I like the way a presenter can capture the audience’s attention. When I saw that, I always thought ‘That’s what I want to do’,” Smith said.

A sign on the door told everyone to be quiet while people are “opening their souls”. The event encourages connection through openness and understanding of one another.

The organizer, Marsha Shandur, opened up the event with a small speech.

“I’d like to welcome all of you to True Stories, for how many is this the first event?” Shandur said.

Shandur welcomed newcomers, explaining what the event was about. She encouraged guests to grab a drink and get comfortable as the show began.

Smith was the first of five performers to take the stage. Her own story was something that she used to find embarrassing.

Her story was about herself as a younger woman in high school, discovering what it was like to have a crush.

“I’m hoping that by turning it into a funny story and making people laugh to it and connect to it, that instead of being embarrassed by it, I’d be proud of it,” Smith said.

Smith told the audience she used to believe in strategic crushes”. This meant going after the person she logically thought was best. Yet, since Smith saw herself as the weird girl in high school, she believed she wasn’t good enough to have standards.

Smith’s opinion changed after a school dance, when she realized the boys she was dancing with, were boys that didn’t deserve her attention. After that dance, she decided she would never have a “strategic crush” again. By the end of her performance, Smith told the audience she was no longer embarrassed by this story.

She later explained that this episode was now something she could laugh at and learn from, and left the audience with a message about self-worth and standards. The audience roared, as she walked off the stage.

Woman
Grace Smith before sharing her story  (Divya Rajan)
The outside of The Garrison where True Stories told live was held (Divya Rajan)
An excited audience member who came early to watch them set up. (Divya Rajan)