Six tellers from the community will share stories around the theme of "Food & Family" at the Arizona Storytellers show on Wednesday, Oct. 12.
Among them: John Avila, whose Prison Pies food stand features dishes developed out of desperation during a stint behind bars. His story has garnered attention on social media channels and even in a short film, "Tamalero," shown at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.
“When you watch TV shows about prison, it’s all about the fights,” Avila told Arizona Republic food writer Bahar Anooshahr. “They never talk about our food."
Just like on the outside, food connects people to each other and to memories, he said. When he was incarcerated at age 21 for a DUI, Avila found himself missing the taste of home. When someone made him prison tamales using ingredients purchased at the commissary (think crushed Doritos instead of masa), he was shocked at the comfort it brought him.
His food stand now pops up regularly at Valley farmers markets.
"I want to in a way humanize prison life, showing people every day things [food] we made will help," Avila said.
Other tellers for the October show include:
Willa Eigo, a marketing specialist, who will share how becoming a step-parent helped evolve her ideas around marriage and family.
Rebecca Love, a storytelling student, who will share how gender roles hilariously came into play during her first Thanksgiving with her husband.
Republic columnist Greg Moore, who will be the first man in his family to bake his grandmother's pecan pie all on his own during the upcoming holidays.
Bilal Munir Rahim, co-founder of a nonprofit, who learned difficult lessons throughout his life that helped shape and mold him into the person he is today.
Navajo chef Mario Renetto, whose grandmother taught him about his culture through food. Along the way food helped him heal as a young boy.
In keeping with the show's "Food & Family" theme, Republic food and dining editor Felicia Campbell will cohost with Arizona Storytellers founder Megan Finnerty.
It's the fifth in-person Arizona Storytellers event post-COVID-19 shutdowns. More than 420 people attended August's "Vacations & Adventures" themed show.
All stories are true, first-person accounts. Tellers are coached by Republic journalists and by instructors and students from South Mountain Community College's Storytelling Institute.
The next Storytellers Project show will be "Holidays" on Dec. 14.
The Tempe Center for the Arts COVID-19 policy makes face masks optional. No proof of vaccination is required. Also note that because Storytellers evenings typically sell out, tickets can only be purchased online and will not be sold at the venue.
Arizona Storytellers: Food & Family
Where: Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe.
When: Wednesday, Oct. 12. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Show begins at 7 p.m.
Tickets: $12 and can be purchased online only at storytellersproject.com. No tickets will be sold at the door.
Note: Captioning services for the deaf and hard of hearing is provided by the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona Storytellers: Food & Family is Oct. 12. Get tickets online now