I have been to the Jonesborough Festival (one example) a number of times and experienced some fantastic performances, as many of us have. A huge problem, as I see it, is that after a particularly great festival performance, I'm pretty much left with only being able to purchase the personal CD of particular performers. With the exception of a few compilation CDs or DVDs offered from years' past from Jonesborough performances (I saw these in the marketplace tent), what other choices are there to disseminate that experience that I just sat through? What does the Festival Organization do with the audiotaped and videotaped performances? (I have noticed them videotaping a number of times, but seldom see where I can purchase those live-recorded performance tapes--with few exceptions). I assume since they are using sound boards at the festival they audiotape every session. Are they archived in some library that you have to travel to to hear them? Why aren't they available through the internet, downloadable like iTunes (with a portion going to the artist)?
As great as some of the storytellers are that appear at festivals, let's be honest, the studio produced CDs resemble very little the hummpfft of a live performance feel. So, I come home from the Jonesborough Festival and I'm excited about our artform and want to spread the word about Storytelling (or individual performers I just saw) and pretty much what I have as a promotional vehicle is a blander, studio-produced or a barely audible audience, live recorded CD (no offense tellers) of a prior performance that does not resemble the fantastic live experience I just had. There's no comparison.
I buy the cds because I'm a storyteller who wants to understand and learn from my peers how they put their stories together. But that's a limited audience. This begs the question: How will our artform (at least the platform performance aspect) ever be taken seriously as a choice for entertainment (for people other than storytellers) if the only way you can experience it is to have to go to a festival or local coffeehouse or show up at your kid's school?
Okay, the contrarians are going to say it's the same way with theater--live is the only way. But when storytelling venues attain numbers like community theaters I'll buy that point. You can download nearly every piece of music out there, and live concerts still sell out. Books do well, even if made into movies. Are we too protective of live storytelling?
With many creative videographers out there, there ought to be a way to videotape and capture the live feel for DVDs, public television, or some outlet the public can have better access to. (I saw one such storytelling program on public television and it was a good step in the right direction.) Is this a matter of the artists wanting to protect their copywrited materials? I don't know, I'm asking. I assume the festival has some rights when it comes to the audio or video taping at a festival, since it always clearly states only they can do it. How are they using those rights? Archival only? I'm curious.
It seems to me if your repertoire as a top storyteller is X number of stories, then allowing outstanding-quality videotaped performances of a handful of your stories to be disseminated freely in an effort to teach future audiences that this is a valid (not just for kids) and entertaining choice would help our community and yourself by raising the awareness, and creating audiences that aren't primarily just made up of other storytellers.
The pictures on the National Storytelling Centers' wall that come closest to the feel you get in Jonesborough are the ones that show the teller from behind looking out to the huge audience. It provides context; tent, teller, audience, audience expression. A picture taken straight on of a storyteller on a stage with however crazy an expression tells us little about the storytelling experience. People go to plays, movies, anything live and entertaining because there's a certain something you can't get off the television. But that doesn't mean you should limit things to live only. There's too much talent and technology out there to not try and recreate the experience and use it as a promotional tool to get demand for festivals popping up all over the country and world.
As a storyteller I'd love access to any archives from large festivals, because that's how I better learn my craft. I'd love the public to have more access to the festival experience because I often feel like an army of one or a very small platoon through the local guild or regional organization, in promoting storytelling after I've been to a festival.
I long for the day when I tell people I tell stories and they say, "Oh you mean the kind of storytelling I saw on television the other night? Wow!"
You want to think outside the box? Has anyone noticed that the Metropolitan Opera is now showing performances inside some movie theaters? Yes, you can go see The Met Performances inside your local movie house. How about stories before the movie starts?
Just some thoughts,
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My thoughts, and yours, in the comments section