“People fascinate me,” says psychologist-turned-storyteller Kari Knutson. “Why do we do what we do? People appear in my life and we start connecting. There are endless opportunities for ridiculous, funny and touching stories in everyday situations.”
Knutson, a Mayfair resident, turned her collection of stories about her life into a one-woman show, Ain’t Never Met a Stranger: Stories from the Passenger Seat, which she performed at The Clocktower Cabaret downtown in June.
Ain’t Never Met a Stranger follows Kari through a romance complicated by 9/11; her experiences as the only hearing student at a deaf school; growing up as the daughter of a gay father and an ex-nun mother; and her on-again-off-again, eight-year relationship with Joe, the man who became her husband.
Knutson, a part-time school counselor and professional speaker, wrote the show after years of telling stories from her own life. “I became the lunchtime storyteller at school. I never had called myself a storyteller before, but people enjoyed it. I told the stories at a friend’s house in front of a small audience and we taped it. The feedback I got said that this should be a one-woman show.”
Many of the loosely connected stories revolve around her relationship with her husband Joe, a high school history teacher. “After the show, people want to talk to him because they relate to him,” Knutson said.
She says she’s not a comedienne. “I didn’t set out to be funny. As a storyteller, I tell true stories. There are no punchline endings. It’s up to the audience to take from it what they need. People relate to different stories. They tell me, ‘I’ve had pain or joy like that.’ It touches me that our experiences are unique but we share the same human condition. I love smaller venues because I can see people’s faces and hear their responses.”
The show’s title came from a conversation in the passenger seat of an airplane. “A man in his late 60s named Jim sat next to me and the conversation turned to his search for love. Suddenly he looked at me and said, ‘Who are you? I’ve never told this to anyone. You ain’t never met a stranger, have you?’”
Knutson holds master’s degrees in higher education administration and counseling. She is a part-time school counselor at Crown Pointe Academy in Westminster, as well as a public speaker and emotional intelligence trainer with her own business, Knutson Speaks. “I decided to take psychology off the couch and bring it to people,” she says.
She earned her counseling degree at Gallaudet University in Washington DC, a university for deaf and hard of hearing students, and became proficient in American Sign Language. She employs an ASL interpreter at her shows.
Knutson is completing a book of her stories, which she hopes to publish this fall. She also plans to put the training and entertaining parts of her life together. “I’ll offer an employee training and show package,” she says.
Knutson will perform Ain’t Never Met a Stranger 2.0 on September 19 at 8pm at The Clocktower. She calls the new show 2.0 because “I have something like 38 stories in all, so the new show will incorporate new stories.”