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My Blog

The Art of Storytelling

Good morning.  Almost strange to say good morning while it is still dark outside.  Yesterday I was at the Gurnee Senior Center performing ghost stories to the resident in both the assisted and the Alzheimer departments.  What a great morning.  They were pretty much all invested in the stories.  They laughed, their eyes opened wide when the scary parts were there.  It is so great to be on the other side of that.  Those truly are the moments that make me know my job is worth while. 
Today's blog is about storytelling.  When the general public hear the word Storyteller...they think that someone comes in a reads a story out of a book.  They also tend to connect it with only children.  It is more than likely not thought of as a job that takes a great deal of preparation or that there are various forms of storytelling and or performers.  There are storytellers that are proficient in one particular genre of stories.  Some are geared to telling stories for children, others may tell more personal tales, some love to share folk tales.  There are people who do first person presentations, which is basically telling the life story of the person they are imitating.  For me, I seem to love the challenge of the storytelling.  I was preparing an outline the other day of some of my programs to take with me to the festival and while typing out my programs began to actually realize how many programs I actually have.  I don't think about them all as a whole.  I just have someone hire me and I do the program.  I enjoy when I am challenged to a new program.  I am currently working on one for Christopher Columbus Day.  Each time I am asked for something that Is on my list, I perceive it as a new opportunity.  Most tellers will pretty much stick in their particular genre. 
I have found that through the years, I have some that are most dearest to my heart...such as the personal type stories.  The hero stories, and I LOVE ghost stories.  I enjoy the stories that discovered hidden facts and things that make the average person think about and want to research more on their own. 
During a Civil War presentation, 2 young girls were in the audience while I performed a piece on woman soldiers during the Civil War.  They were with their father and at one point, they turned to him and asked whether he knew about the subject.  He relied that he was just as amazed as them.   This is a priceless moment for me. 
When I do my Thinking Cap program about women inventors, people are quite taken back over the things that woman have actually invented.  It is often funny to me to see how certain products are automatically thought to have been designed by a man...for instance a circular saw was actually designed by a woman. 
People eat chocolate chips cookies all the time, and have heard of the Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie, but don't know the real story behind them....and it is a great story. 
Aside from having the programs, there is a great deal of preparation that goes into the story before it goes up on the stage.  Part of the search is finding the right stories that resonate with you and then trying to make it your own.  There are rehearsals after rehearsals and a great deal of attention needs to be paid to body language, voice inflections etc.  Sometimes a prop is needed and you need to make sure that it is the right one...otherwise it is a distraction.  Another tool is the microphones.  Not all are created equal and you need to know which ones to use for the proper presentation.  You need to be prepared when you tell that they may arise some complications.  I personally deal with some when I tell to the Alzheimer's.  Depending on their particular problem, I sometimes have squealing or yelling going on throughout the performance and need to be able to not allow that to distract me from telling the story.  You can be in a venue all day where people come and go while you are telling and need to not let that become a distraction.  You need to be prepared for the weather.  I once was hired to tell ghost stories out in the middle of a field by a cauldron.  It was 35 degrees outside, the winds were horrific and I stood there telling stories for an hour while children came and went.   I am often in front or around campfires for ghost stories and the smoke leaves you pretty hoarse the next day.  But in the end...they are all rewarding.  I have never walked away from telling stories disappointed.  The faces of the audiences are what leave with me.  Whether I have informed them or frightened them, entertained them or made them laugh, I feel as though for that brief time I have given them a gift.  I recently wrote this article for the Inside Glenview Magazine and will be writing another for the December issue.  I thought I would share it with you.  I am on pages 18 and 19. http://emagazines.hibu.com/GLENVW  I hope you enjoy it.  I just thought I would take you a little deeper into the Storytelling world and I hope that it will encourage you to get out and see a storyteller.  Hopefully, one day it will be me. 

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