Treasured Tips from a Talented Troupe of Tellers
Every two months I have the delightful opportunity to share tips from my storytelling friends in my Tips Column in the National Storytelling Network's (NSN) Storytelling Magazine. Realizing that not everyone who visits this website is a member of NSN - although I highly recommend you join - I have decided to periodically start sharing some of these wonderful tips on this site. Because of space limitations in the magazine, I also have many tips that have been sent to me, but not used. So, this will solve both situations and it will become a win-win-win project for all of us. I hope you enjoy them - I received a lot of great feedback the first time I tried it - and let me know if you like the change of pace and hearing from a full troupe of tellers. Read on!
underestimate the value of humorous fillers. They can make for transition
time & help tie a program together thematically. You'll find more
of this is in the children's section of the library than in the adult,
but don't let that stop you if it's not a program for that age level.
You can even make your own material to fit the topic. Yes, you can. While
there are a few books on the topic, my favorite is Joanne E. Bernstein's
_Fiddle with a Riddle_ (Dutton, 1979) to get you creating wordplay by
brainstorming key words. So even if you can't find existing material,
you really can create your own humor.
leave your day job for the "Big Bucks" of Storytelling!
If you are going to be a full time storyteller, make sure you LOVE your
craft. . . There is absolutely nothing like the high you get when you
see your story come back to you through the eyes of a child or adult.
BUT . . . You will be spending 12-15 hours in preparation for every hour
you tell, you will be questioning your leaving the stability of a regular
job. You will find soon enough that you will be working harder than you
ever have before. . . And feeling better about yourself and your life,
than you have ever felt!
strangers or losing one's ego. Storytelling requires risking ones
ego. Separating ego from the event allows the teller to become the giver
of a gift. For myself, a shy person, discovering this enabled me to reach
out to many people on a daily basis, including the strangers all around
me. I found people who really needed a story and a smile. Storytelling
has helped me remove my insulated blinders and reach out to my community
where the ones in need of a story reside. Offering the gift turns strangers
into listeners and listeners are no longer strangers. My favorite quote
says what I feel about the risk, "Treat strangers with kindness for
you never know when you might be in the presence of angels."
business tip: While performing at zoos can be a wonderful opportunity
to share folklore and stories about animals, keep in mind that if you
are asked to perform in or near the animal enclosures, the storyteller
is always second fiddle to the animal. Your audience came to see the animals--
you are an extra attraction. Be prepared for interruptions, as the star
of your story may suddenly start "performing" for your audience
while you're telling. Be flexible, and incorporate what happens into your
story. A briefing from the zookeepers or docents beforehand can alert
you to expected behaviors (e.g. "the elephants like to throw dirt
around this time of day") and allow you to pass on scientific information
along with your story.
storytelling requires polished storytelling skills: illuminating voice,
meaningful facial expression, expressive body language, and well-practiced
delivery. The flow of events should include effective, not affected, pauses
for audience reflection and response. The storyteller should try to be
aware, in advance, of suitable story selections for the proposed target
audience, and, if working with other tellers, the order of telling for
the program. The laughter that might come from a storyteller's offered
experience shouldn't throw off the structure of a planned program, or
tear the audience apart. It should bind us together in a positive, heart-healthy
laugh.In the shared experience of humorous storytelling, we revel with
one another, rather than laughing at anyone. We may not all understand
or like the same joke, but we all enjoy the well-told funny story.
Tall Tales. I especially enjoy crafting tall tales because my 'lies'
can ignore the laws of physics. However, no matter how far fetched you
are with the similes, metaphors, exaggerations, and blarney the audience
still expects you to follow a logical sequence so they can build visual
images of the plot's action. Remember, in telling a tall tale, you can
get as fantastic as you want with the word play but you still have to
apply the rules of cause/effect and sequence so your listeners won't get
confused and give up on you. Allow them to enjoy your speculative tale
while you enjoy the laughter.
with your materials. At the festival's start, the storyteller's musical
instrument was accidentally damaged, preventing its use in the telling.
I watched the storyteller make a list of tales that could be told without
the instrument. The result - the stories were absolutely wonderful and
superior WITHOUT the instrument - though none of us had the heart to say
so. Lesson learned-be prepared at all times. Always have a back-up plan
in the wings. If your materials don't arrive in time or become unusable
- don't sweat. Know what you're going to do before it happens. Get into
the habit of thinking ahead and be proactive rather than reactive! True
professionals are prepared for the best and worst of situations!
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