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Arts & Culture

PechaKucha Akron Tells Personal Stories in Seven Minute PowerPoint Presentations

In the spirit of karaoke and Sudoku, another Japanese trend has hit the shores of the U.S. PechaKucha -- a twist on story telling and PowerPoint -- got its start in Tokyo more than a decade ago and has now spread to 900 cities worldwide.

Akron staged it’s first PechaKucha in 2015.

WKSU’s Jeff St.Clair sat down with of the two organizers of tonight’s event.

Annal Vyas  and Heather Roszczyk are part of the team behind Akron's PechaKucha nights. Vyas first heard about it in Cleveland, which has staged 29 events since 2009.  

Vyas says PechaKucha is Japanese for "the sound of conversation."

It’s a series of nine speakers who speak on a variety of topics.  "An intellectual variety show," according to Roszczyk.

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SVETLA MORRISON
PechaKucha Akron taps into the newly resurgent creative vitality of Akron.

Vyas acknowledges that PowerPoint has the reputation of being mind-numbingly boring, but he says this is the antidote to that.

“Each speaker presents for just under seven minutes,” showing 20 slides for 20 seconds each.

The event features nine speakers on topics from all disciplines, ranging from postpartum depression, to covering Cleveland sports; from Akron’s broadcast history to its role as a rubber producer in World War II.

Roszczyk says the unpredictable nature of the event is part of its charm.

“As an audience member, you aren’t quite sure what you’re going to hear,” says Roszczyk, “from very personal stories to stories of a global nature.”

“I think it’s one of the only events in Akron where you can hear a hip-hop performance and learn about meditation in the same evening.”

A favorite from past PechaKuchas?
“Bobby Wesner of NEOS Dance Theater,” say both Vyas and Roszczyk. “He showed slides that told the love story between him and his wife, accompanied by interpretive dance,” says Roszczyk, “and she didn’t know it was coming.”

“Oh my gosh, it brought the house down.  I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place.”

“It was a love letter to his wife as the slides are circling through, and everyone was in tears,” says Vyas.

Private Stories in the Public Sphere
Presenter Brit Charek is an entrepreneur, educator and mother of two 

She’ll share her recent experience with postpartum depression at the upcoming PechaKucha Akron taking us on her journey to recovery.

It’s highly personal, with references to breast feeding, menstruation, depressionand the therapeutic benefits of Pokémon Go.

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Credit SVETLA MORRISON
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SVETLA MORRISON
Brit Charek is the founder of Akron's Crafty Mart, and the mother of two boys. In PechaKucha Vol. 6 she talks about her struggles with postpartum depression.

Charek is willing to share her private struggles with a room full of strangers "because it’s a terrible thing to struggle alone. And so I’d really like to open that dialogue and let people talk about how it’s OK to get down and get treatment for mental illness.”    

PechaKucha organizer Annal Vyas says the format allows anyone to realize new meaning from life experiences by putting them out there in a seven minute PowerPoint talk.               

“PechaKucha is about telling your truth,” says Vyas.

“It’s interesting how you might be able to not tell your story to someone sitting across the table from you, or a stranger in a group of four or five, but all of a sudden there is that liberating component of oratorical expression that accompanies an audience of 300 where you get up there and say, ‘This is me, and this my truth,’ and that can be very compelling.”

Tickets are free for the next PechaKucha Akron event, with a suggested $5 donation.  It's tomorrow night at the Akron Urban League.  Doors open at 7 p.m., the event starts at 8 p.m.