Lip Service founder Andrea Askowitz steps down as head of South Florida storytellers group

arts / Article

Photo: Andrea Askowitz at a Lip Service event. Photo courtesy of Andrea Askowitz.

After nine years of bringing true stories from the Miami community to life, Lip Service creator Andrea Askowitz is stepping down as head of the organization. Her final Lip Service show is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 24, at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables.

Lip Service started as a free event at Books & Books. In 2012, the organization won a three-year Knight Arts Challenge grant, and it has grown into a highly anticipated quarterly literary showcase featuring eight South Florida-based storytellers.

“The thing I love about Lip Service is how willing people are to tell their stories,” says Askowitz, who produced 40 shows, worked with close to 300 storytellers and saw audiences grow in size from 60 to 600 during her tenure. “I mean, to tell the parts of themselves that may not always look pretty. And our audience is the best in the world. When someone’s nervous on stage, when I’m nervous on stage, I feel emotionally buoyed by the love and support of our audience.”

Lip Service tapped into our community’s need (and every community’s need) to share and connect with each other through personal narratives. From tales of power to betrayal, Lip Service demonstrated that South Florida is home to a community of courageous storytellers who are not afraid to reveal themselves.

“I felt so much love for the storytellers, for their willingness to trust. And I felt so much love for the audience, which always, always received our storytellers with love and understanding,” Askowitz says. “One time a woman told a story about having a panic disorder, and during the telling of the story, the hand holding her papers started shaking. The audience took in an audible breath. I’m sure our storyteller could hear it. But it was a totally sympathetic breath. And our storyteller steadied her hand with her other hand and kept reading her story. That happened several years ago, and people still talk to me about that brave and beautiful story.”

Lip Service showed that literature matters here.

“I do think Lip Service transformed the community. It helped us understand each other,” Askowitz notes. “Lip Service tapped into something people needed, which was a simple thing: a place to share true, personal stories.”

Although Oct. 24 will be Askowitz’s last show, this won’t be the last word from her–she finds literature way too fun. Askowitz, the author of “My Miserable, Lonely, Lesbian Pregnancy,” has a new project. Through Writing Class Radio, a podcast of the writing class she’s been teaching as an offshoot of Lip Service, she hopes to help writers become better self-editors and give their work that extra oomph. She says listeners can expect writing instruction, tips and a tremendous amount of stories. The pilot is available on the Writing Class Radio website, and the debut podcast will be available on iTunes Oct. 24–the same date as Askowitz’s final Lip Service performance.

As for Lip Service, its future is still unclear. In a note on the group’s website, Askowitz writes that Lip Service is “in negotiations with a new administrative partner,” adding that she hopes “they keep it going forever.”

General admission tickets to the Oct. 24 show are $15 ($30 for preferred seating) and are available here.  

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