January 09, 2012

The Year Ahead

With 2012 still young, I thought I'd set my sights on the year ahead.

As usual, I've got some traditional folktales that I'm working on. And I'm one of many local storyellers learning part of the Kalevala for a day-long telling of this Finnish epic, hosted by our muse Cathryn Fairlee. I'm looking forward to getting to hear such an old story from the oral tradition told live, and if that weren't enough, this year Going Deep, the Long Traditional Story Retreat, is coming to my neighborhood! (I don't think that I can attend the retreat, but oh boy will I be there for the stories.)

I'm looking at possible telling far afield, but I don't think a Fringe Festival is in the cards for me this year. Instead, I might try a mini-tour in combination with a family vacation.

And I'm pledging to spend more time this year producing and curating content, rather than just consuming it. So, look for more blog posts here, as well as continuing efforts at my Tumblr sites: Story Lab X and Storytelling Looks Like This.

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An audience member once asked me if I created my own material, and I confessed that much of my repertoire was ancient. But every once in a while, inspiration pokes its little head out of the compost heap, and sprouts.

Here are three seeds. I wonder if any of them will grow?

1. A character voice: A few nights ago while driving home, I tuned in a syndicated radio program whose host had a unique voice, very atypical for radio. So unusual, I started to speak aloud to myself, and play with sound production, in an effort to recreate the sound of his voice. I couldn't quite match the vocal quality I was trying to isolate, but the exercise reminded me of the variety of characterization possible... and created a challenge. The voice I'm aiming for could be quite comic. However, if I do it wrong, it could come across as mean-spirited mockery.

(I don't do extreme character voices in my performances. But that voice I heard really intrigued me.)

2. The second seed is a visual image. Not an image from a story, but an image of a storyteller. Only, a storyteller not dressed in what you expect a storyteller to dress like.

Do you dress up on stage? Do you have a storytelling outfit? Or even a costume?

has this guy got a story to tell!I have a storyteller costume, though I don't use it all the time (I'll use it in my Fringe show). When I don't wear the costume, I do think about what I'm going to wear when I tell. Certain clothes allow me to slide into my storytelling persona more easily.

But I'm really intrigued about the kind of stories that might come from a storyteller in this outfit.

It's a chicken and egg question. I don't have an outfit like this. Do the stories come first, then the outfit? Or if I get the outfit, will the stories come?


3. A song: this one has crawled straight into my heart, and evokes so many stories for me.



Happy 2012, everyone!

2 comments:

Carolyn Stearns Storyteller-Announcer said...

There's an old saying "The clothes make the man" Would be fun to rent the suit and see what the audience reaction to it would be. Makes me wonder about our image as storytellers - are we selling ourselves short?
I have to admit that in my Civil War dress people are more polite and address the image more formally. Now you've got me thinking....

Charles Johnson said...

I always dress professionally. if I'm on stage I wear a jacket and tie, if at a campfire then khakis and a crisp, white shirt. The clothes I wear inspire me, they provide me with a feeling that takes me in the direction I want to go.

Just last week I bought a beautiful, blue, seer-sucker suit and white panama hat for the summer festival season. I put that suit on, feeling very much the southern politician and I picture myself telling stories about lovable hucksters selling hysteria about the evils of pool halls and the promise of a boy's band to solve all the world's Trouble. I don't know what I'll tell wearing that suit, but whatever it is will come out with style and flair because the suit makes me feel that way.

A suit makes you bigger than life, it makes you the star of the show. When the other performers show up in t-shirts and jeans and you step up on stage dressed in a white dinner jacket and bow tie, people know you're going to deliver the goods.

When you slip your arms through the satin-lined jacket, and fix your perfectly-tied tie, you feel bigger, more flashy, more confident, this feeling you get comes through your telling and is felt by the audience.

A suit tells people you're a star, and a suit makes you feel like a star. It's a magical costume that requires brash stories of knights and dragons, romantic space operas, and tales of bold spies and beautiful femme fatale; stories the likes of which would normally appear on the big screen but are easily rendered by you - the star, the man who's bold enough to tell them, the man who's bold enough to wear a suit!

For me, the white dinner jacket and bow tie (I actually own that suit) would have me tell spy stories. I would write a thriller in the style of Ian Flemming for a sixty minute telling that leaves people on the edge of their seats. Or, I would wear a red rose on my lapel and tell romantic tales of star-crossed lovers in a valentine-themed show. Or, a murder mysterey story of an old man who left his fortune to whomever of his un-grateful descendants is willing to spend the night in - "Murder House". Or.....