On Monday, April 4th, I produced a show with the help of Storytellers of the Round Table and Naples Advanced Toastmasters. It was a huge success! We sold 78 of 85 tickets for Tobye Hall at the Sugden Theatre (home of the Naples Players) in downtown Naples on Fifth Avenue. There is nothing more electric for a performer than an excited full house. Our ten storyteller-performers delighted the audience. “I haven’t laughed so hard in years.” “I haven’t had such an enjoyable evening in a long time.” “This is so much more than I expected.” “It was captivating.” “When is the next one?”
Beginning with the goal to promote the range and power of storytelling as a performance art and oral tradition, the StorySlam venue came to life in Naples. The first free event was at my office on August 4, 2015, followed by December 4, 2015 and March 4, 2016. We collected the best stories for our theatre production on Monday, April 4, 2016. Our non-profit sponsor Naples Advanced Toastmasters paid the theatre deposit up front. Storytellers of the Round Table paid the advertising. This allowed us to charge $15 with the hope of breaking even to re-pay the theatre and advertising costs. Natural Awakenings magazine promoted our event in a News Brief. The Florida Weekly newspaper promoted our event with an article on the Thursday before the event, and most tickets sold the weekend prior to the event. I am grateful to all the participants and performers who donated their time for the love of storytelling. We have created a revival of this art form here in Naples.
“Storytelling” is a word used in many different contexts. It is often applied to anyone who tells a story: novelists, essayists, playwrights, movie directors. However, the context that I am using is the storyteller as a performer — one person (often on a stage) telling a story to an audience — interacting, connecting and captivating the audience. The venue can be as small as a family sitting together at home listening to grandparents, friends sitting around a campfire, or tents that holds over five hundred people at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. In this age of multimedia, it is often hard to image how captivating one person can be as they interact and connect with the audience in a way that television, movies, and YouTube cannot. Storytellers evoke emotion, create community, and activate an ancient part of our psyche. The range of storytelling includes personal stories, folk tales, fairy tales, fractured tales, tall tales, historical stories, and much more.
The power of the storyteller can be described, of course, in a story (recently told to me by Carmen Agra Deedy).
There was an anthropologist studying a remote village in the jungle. After more than a year, he had completed his research. As he was leaving, the elders wanted to know more about the outside world. While he did not want to influence the culture, the elders insisted on a television. After much debate with the elders, the anthropologist decided to leave them a television and generator. He showed them how to use it.
A year later, he returns. The children are excited to see him again. He goes to the place of the television and generator, which is now covered in vines and already taken back by the jungle.
“What happened?” he says.
“It was great for awhile, but then we remembered that we have a Storyteller,” says one of the children.
“But this television knows thousands and thousands of stories. It knows more than your Storyteller,” says the confused anthropologist.
“Yes, but our Storyteller knows us.”
In the oral tradition of storytelling, the teller and audience are intimately connected. The teller weaves a world and invites the audience to not just watch, but to be a part of the story. This is the power of listening ,empathy, and human connection.
What makes a good story? A story is not just a narrative of events. A story has setting, characters, a plot that builds tension with internal or external conflict, and a resolution. While stories must make sense to our logical mind, more importantly they also evoke emotions. The best public speakers use stories as well as logical facts and statistics. Every story has a message or central theme – implicit or explicit. Most stories have universal themes that create meaning in the context of the listener’s experiences. Different people may get different messages from a story. The best stories show us what happens, rather than just tell us. Effective stories often use humor to connect the audience and ease tension. Storytellers engage the audience. They do not read or recite from rote memorization. They use language written for the “ear” – to be heard rather than read. Storytellers use body language, gestures, facial expressions, and vocal variety to communicate on a level beyond just the words. At its best, storytelling captivates, connects, and inspires.
In case you missed the last StorySlam, we are planning a repeat performance in Fort Myers at Alliance for the Arts on Wednesday, January 25th, 2017.
Visit pictures from the April 4th, 2016, event online:
Email Storytellers of the Round Table at storytellersRT@gmail.com
Stay tuned for other storytelling events.
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