Brandi Grayson

“There’s a lot of misunderstanding and divide that goes on in our world – and Madison has its share of it – and I think this is an opportunity for people to know each other differently,” says Rita Adair. “Maybe it will bridge a gap somehow or give us an opportunity to see somebody a little differently. I’m just hoping that it builds relationships in this community … while being a form of entertainment in a way.”

Adair has been living in Chicago for the past five years and one of her favorite things to do is to go out to storytelling events hosted at a variety of outlets around Chicago and hear people talk about their personal life journeys. Starting this Wednesday, she will be bringing that concept — the Madison Voices Project — to the city of Madison.

“I just love the concept where people tell personal stories about their lives and you get to know them differently than you might otherwise know them,” Adair tells Madison365. “When I tell people about the great storytelling events I attend in Chicago, I decided that Madison would be a great place to start a storytelling venue.”

Rita Adair
Rita Adair

Madison Voices is an opportunity for people who live and work in the Madison area to share their personal stories with the greater public community in order to help bridge the many divides. The kickoff event, this Wednesday night at Madison’s Restaurant in downtown Madison, will feature Madison’s poet laureate Oscar Mireles, Young Gifted and Black’s Brandi Grayson, and former Madison police chief David Couper. It will also feature a story from Adair, who is in the process of writing her own autobiography about her really interesting life.

“It’s time for me to share some of my writing and I wanted to do that first in Madison,” Adair says.

Born to a white Norwegian and an African-American dad from the South, Adair spent her childhood living in a variety of places and attending many different schools in both the United States and Canada. Adair ended up settling in Madison where she is well known as a social justice advocate and former owner of an LGBTQ blues-and-jazz club called Adair’s Lounge (now The Frequency). Adair has been a foster parent to 23 teenage girls over a period of 17 years and has spent the bulk of her working life as a social worker for Dane County in Wisconsin. She’s been living in Chicago for the last 5 years.

Madison Voices will take place at the large space downstairs at Madison’s on every second Wednesday of each month. Five people who live in the Madison will tell a 10-minute personal story to an audience. After the storytelling is over, the audience will have an opportunity to speak with the storytellers personally and ask them questions.

“The idea for Madison Voices is for people to come in and talk, but for this to not be about their jobs or not be about the climate of our society … it’s really about them, a personal story about themselves,” Adair says. “It’s a chance to get to know them a little differently. It gives people a chance to share.”

Oscar Mireles (pictured here with Dora Zuniga) will share a story about his life at the inaugural event of Madison Voices Wednesday, Oct. 12.
Oscar Mireles (pictured here with Dora Zuniga) will share a story about his life at the inaugural event of Madison Voices Wednesday, Oct. 12.

Adair is hoping the event will be a hit and grows and eventually helps to bring the people of Madison together. She talks about possibly bringing in some youths at some point to tell their stories. Every time somebody tells a story at the event they will get a “Madison Voices: I Told My Story” t-shirt.

“I’m excited about it. People have been calling me and they want to jump on the bandwagon and tell their story,” Adair says. “I’m excited about the future of this. I think it’s just a great concept. When I’m in Chicago, I can’t get enough of these things. The stories are just incredible.”

For more information about Madison Voices, click here.