By Teresa Leggard
There’s was a modest audience in The Buffalo Room at Westport Flea Market for the first performance of Laura Packer’s “Haunted: Stories for the Brave of Heart.” My guess is a mix of friends, family, and diehard Fringers. Packer, here from Wayzata, Minnesota, has an equally modest set: one stage, one stool, and one mic.
Using only her voice and body, Packer weaves tales both contemporary and timeless, from childhood summer camp to a valley in Japan to her former home here in Kansas City. In between, she flexes her narrative dexterity by crafting a tale on the spot using random pieces of information provided by the crowd. It requires a little audience participation but don’t worry, it’s the harmless kind.
The smaller and more intimate space is a good venue for this kind of performance, and Packer, a professional, is unbothered by the waitstaff taking and filling orders throughout the show. It could have been a distraction, but that’s the magic of storytelling. You start of listening in the backroom of a bar, you lean in, and then you’re in a tent at sleep-away camp or in the shadows of a forest or remembering someone you love who’s gone but not forgotten.
In one of Packer’s stories, a character says, “People come to me for healing. Sometimes I just listen. For most of them, that’s enough.” I think that’s very true. So maybe some healing happened here tonight. If so, I don’t mind that at all.