Ive mentioned in other articles, there are as many different styles
of telling stories as there are storytellers. There are many who never
use any kind of a prop, whereas, there are just as many more who do use
one, two, or a variety of props when telling. It is really up to the teller
whether or not and when or how he or she will make use of props. This
article will discuss the ins and outs of using props.
of props do tellers use? Again, there are as many different kinds
of props as the creative imaginations that storytellers possess. Many
tellers make use of percussion instruments to set a beat either
in the background or for special emphasis. I use a variety of drums for
the stories I tell with repetitive phrases. Both children and adults enjoy
chiming in on the phrase when you ask them up front for help and the beat
of a drum just intensifies the mood. If you are particularly brave and
in control, you might provide drums or percussion instruments for everyone
in the audience to use. In lieu of this, you can ask them to either clap
or click fingers in unison. Just make sure that you set the ground rules
first. Many tellers do the same with call and response using
an instrument or having everyone sing along with an instrument (we will
address combining storytelling and music in an upcoming article).
Prepare, practice, and perform. As with all storytelling, preparation and practice are essential to giving an excellent performance. First, if you feel you would like to make use of props, choose those that have a relationship to the story. Ask yourself: If I use this prop, will it make the telling of this story better and stronger? If not, dont use it. Once you have picked a prop or props, practice, practice, practice telling the story along with using the prop. You may think you know exactly how it will fit in, but if you are the least bit uncomfortable, it will distract the audience from listening to the story. And practice even harder if you are going to tackle something more complex like a magic trick, Origami, or string figures. You should almost be able to do these in your sleep.
Always be on the lookout for possible props. If you enjoy using props, look for new ones in unlikely places. You may find them in antiques stores, at yard sales, at flea markets, in toy stores, music stores, your attic or relatives attics, and vintage clothing stores (I mentioned in a previous article how many storytellers wear unusual hats).
Have fun with props and let your listeners have fun too! When I use a new drum, an unusual object, or a puppet, I find that the children in the audience love to run up after the performance and touch everything. So I suggest having props that are indestructible. I do make sure that they dont run off with them, however, unless I have planned ahead and brought a small token prop for everyone to take home which delights them even more! It is even better if the take-along-home will remind them of a story they heard you tell. They may even share with their family.
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