From one woman to everyman
Reportability and credibility in publicly performed narratives
In this article, I extend Labov’s narrative analysis of personal experience (Labov, 1972, 1997; Labov & Waletzky, 1967/1997) to demonstrate how personal narratives that are taken up and transformed into pieces for public performance work within a reportability continuum that balances the individual storyteller’s perspective while incorporating the voices of the community to which these individuals belong. I use the case of the About Face Youth Theatre, a Chicago-based theatre company that engages lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning youth in the dramaturgical process, to demonstrate how narratives are transformed from highly reportable, personal narratives, to highly credible, generic adaptations, to performances that result in the construction of positive, public identities that expose normalness without sacrificing particularity. This process can provide adolescents who experience stigma in public contexts with the opportunity to understand how they see themselves, how others see them, and how they fit into their communities and to fit these perspectives together into a more coherent sense of self.