Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Storyteller's Summer Journey

Two weeks ago I was lucky to co-teach a workshop with storyteller/teaching artist Norah Dooley. It was the first in a series offered by Massmouth for those who are interested in the upcoming story slams and improving their telling skills.

There was an eclectic array of folks, from a teacher who shares storytelling Kamibishi style with her students, a lawyer, slam poet, other participants and Nabil, an MIT student is hitting the road this summer. He has planned a summer internship on storytelling and will be traveling across the country, ending in LA at the National Storytelling Conference.

It was obvious to both Norah and myself after Nabil took the stage to "slam" out his personal five minute story at the end of night that he has the gift!  Not only is he a natural storyteller but he pays attention! The day after the workshop Nabil posted this terrific blog entry about his experience and what he learned. Nabil has graciously given me permission to repost it.

If you are heading to the NSN Conference this summer, be sure to connect with Nabil. He is the real deal, genuine, interesting, interested and talented. Read his post below, he did a fantastic job of encapsulating much of what we discussed in the workshop.

7 Lessons from a Storytelling Workshop

This evening I attended a super helpful workshop in Boston, hosted by seasoned storytellers Norah Dooley and Karen Chace. In our workshop I, along with eight others, practiced storytelling technique and then performed, on stage and with a mic. Brilliant.

A few key lessons that I learned:
  • Shed my ego: To be a great storyteller I should realize that it’s not about me; I’m merely a conduit for the story itself. Once I realize this, and my ego subsides, I will connect with my story more deeply and so will my audience.
  • Don’t memorize: I need to see the imagery in my story in order for the audience to see it. This is easier to do when I’m making up the story as I go along, as opposed to reciting a memorized transcript.
  • Project confidence: If I appear nervous on stage, the audience will feel an urge to take care of me and will lose focus on the story itself.
  • Slow it down: There is a lag between when I speak a word and when it is processed by my audience. Allow my audience to process one image before moving on to the next one.
  • Kill my darlings: Superfluous narrative needs to go. No matter how beautiful it is, if it’s not the meat of the story, my words will lose my audience. We practiced this until 30 seconds felt longer than 60 seconds.
  • Recover gracefully (clever): If I accidentally omit a part of the story that is critical to understanding the ending, rather than saying, “I forgot to tell you something,” instead say: “but what you don’t know…” or, “what I haven’t told you yet…”
  • Take a moment: At the beginning and end of my performance, take a moment to connect with my audience. Starting too soon or leaving the stage too quickly will undermine the power of my story and might also slight my audience.
Among us was also a 10 year old girl. I was amazed at the ease with which she spun stories, and it reminded me that storytelling is less about learning a new craft and more about rediscovering an old one.


Simon Brooks said...

What a wonderful post!
Thanks for sharing. It is always good to have a reminder and also see the insight of others.

Karen Chace said...

Thanks for reading it Simon. Yes, Nabil was fabulous and really "got it!"