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LGBTQ couples tell unique stories in 'How We Met,' Thursday, Feb. 14 at Clinton Street Theater; Paul Iarrobino hosts the event

COURTESY PHOTO - The 'How We Met' Valentine's Day storytelling event at Clinton Street Theater features Nick Chiacchiaro and Windrin 'Cris' Crisostonos and other LGBTQ couples.Metro-area couples will bring the love to the Clinton Street Theater in "How We Met," a Valentine's Day storytelling event on Thursday, Feb. 14.

And it'll be modern and well-accepted love.

"We will feature four diverse couples (including from LGBTQ community). Some of them I knew from the community, while others came from friends and friends of friends," says Paul Iarrobino, who will host the event.

He also is the artistic director of Our Bold Voices, an organization dedicated to coaching and mentoring storytellers, as well as creating opportunities for new voices with an emphasis on building community and giving back.

"The concept for this particular show came from one of the men in this show. He told me about how he met his boyfriend, now husband. The story was funny and had a series of mishaps," Iarrobino says.

"I really wanted a chance for us in the LGBTQ community to have a space to celebrate ourselves and our relationships without filters.

"While we now have the legal right to marry — and that's a huge victory — these couples have all been together before that important milestone. I really wanted to create an event that focuses on our love stories without political messaging."

Iarrabino is a storyteller himself and says that when putting on a show he looks for topics that carry a universal message.

"Regardless of our sexual orientation or gender identity, this show will explore many of the common emotions we all experience when we first meet," he says.

The participants also represent "every color in the rainbow alphabet," he adds. "We have good diversity in terms of race and ethnicity, and we also have good representation in terms of age, geography and life experiences."

Entertaining love

In addition to hearing stories from the four couples, audience members will be treated to an appearance by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who provide community outreach, education and support to the LGBTQIA+ community.

They will host a raffle with all funds going into the group's community fund to support local agencies.

"Whether they are entertaining children or elders, they seek to bring joy wherever they go," Iarrobino says.

He thinks audiences always appreciate a good story, especially one about love on Valentine's Day.

"We are adding a little surprise element with a game show to see how well the couples really know each other. This is designed to be fun and spontaneous," says. "I am excited to see what happens at the event and also what new community connections or conversations emerge."

COURTESY PHOTO - The 'How We Met' Valentine's Day storytelling event includes Cynthia Butts and Ellen Yarnell.The four couples who will participate in "How We Met" are Portland residents Cynthia Butts and Ellen Yarnell and Judge Kemp and Eric Schnell; Beaverton residents Nick Chiacchiaro and Windrin "Cris" Crisostonos; and Vancouver, Washington, residents James and Heidi Green, who wanted to participate as a couple because of the diversity of the group.

All said they are taking part in the storytelling event because they wanted audiences to realize that love knows no age, gender or color.

"How We Met" is "about finding someone special; there is nothing more universal than that," Butts and Yarnell say.

Kemp and Schnell feel that their story is a "great example of how love, time and serendipity can play a hand in destiny."

They add, "Love is universal. Love is funny. Love happens at any age. Love is something to be shared."

Building community

Chiacchiaro and Crisostonos feel they have a "unique and profound story" about how they met. In fact, it is their story that inspired the theme of the entire show.

Their story "completely illustrates how — sometimes — your close friends know you even better than you know yourself. We've told this story so many times to our friends, and we think it's entertaining and interesting."

They are looking forward to "How We Met" because, they say, they just love to share.

"People tend to gravitate toward us, and we are curious to see how our story is received by an audience. Ours is an entertaining story no matter [your] sexual presence or identity," the couple says.

James and Heidi Green say they wanted to be part of the event because they were impressed by Iarrobino's "enthusiasm, energy and passion for building community. He just folded us into his mix of entertainment and community service."

How a couple met is such a common question that sometimes people are too shy to ask, the pair says.

"We like hearing others' answers, and we like to tell our story, too. It's a quick way to arrive at our common human experiences when getting acquainted with new friends."

They add, "The fact that it's for HIV-related and LGBTQ community-based programs was also part of our motivation to participate. We hope there will be a full house and everyone will leave with love in their hearts."

Share the love

What: "How We Met," a Valentine's Day storytelling event

When: Doors 6:30 p.m., show 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14

Where: Clinton Street Theater, 2522 S.E. Clinton St.

Tickets: $5, at www.our-bold-voices.ticketleap.com/how-we-met

More: www.ourboldvoices.com

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