Thursday, March 19

What is a storyteller?

In all my gusto to reinvigorate myself, recently, I forgot that many, if not most people probably don't know what a professional storyteller looks like. For instance, my cousin Sara, who let me know that she'd be willing to help me out, but she didn't really understand what I do. And I guess I can't be surprised. My own experience with a storyteller was incidental, though it had a lasting impact on me.

I was 13 and attending a writing camp over the summer. The camp was held at the local high school, which happened to be less than a mile from my home, and I recall walking at least once. Somewhere in the middle of the two weeks we were all herded into the high school theatre (a room with a large, high stage that I would dance on just a few years later- oh, you didn't know I danced? That's another story... I digress) and the lights were low. Probably the lights were not really lowered, it just felt that way. A woman with a long skirt stood on the floor in front of the stage and told us several stories. One of the stories was "Godfather Death" which was one of the first stories I learned to tell. I was completely captivated by her and more than a little in awe of how quickly she caught all of us up in her net. It was over too soon, but I didn't forget her. She hadn't used a book, or notes, or a podium. She was just a direct conduit for a story. It was like touching her hand and being jolted with electicity.

For a while I thought about what she had done and wondered if there was a way I could learn to do that. I didn't ask anyone. I didn't even havet he guts to audition for plays in high school, much less go looking for someone to teach me how to electrocute other people like that. I didn't get the guts to try theatre until college, and I never would have learned to tell stories if I hadn't gone to graduate school. (That may be an exaggeration. You don't have to go to graduate school to learn to tell stories.)

Storytelling is probably the first, and oldest form of art. It's an oral art form that connects human beings by sharing the essence of what it is to be humanand to have human experiences. But for my cousin Sara who has never seen the likes of Elizabeth Ellis or Bill Harley or Jackie Torrence or Donald Davis or Michael D. McCarty... that still doesn't explain the Professional Storyteller. What Sara doesn't understand is that she's seen it in a non-professional setting a million times. There are a little more theatrics involved and there is a protocol as in any performance situation, but really it's just what Ray Hicks always thought it was: Just part of life. It was a way we connect and communicate who we are and what we belive to one another.


My Cousin Audrey reminded me the other day that you don't wait until you are what you want to become to start acting and dressing like it- you act and dress like what you want to become long before you reach your goal. So I'm working all that out in specific ways, but in one way I can go ahead and claim it- I am a storyteller. I tell stories

Anyone else have anything to add to that?

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