Sunday, October 18, 2009

Personal Narrative as performance - storytelling and slams

"The story was the San people’s (Bushman of the Kalahari) most sacred possession. These people knew what we do not; that without a story you have not got a nation, or culture, or civilization. Without a story of your own, you haven’t got a life of your own." —Laurens Van der Post

This is why we are working hard to make a story slam work in Boston. We ( the organizers at massmouth ) want everyone to be alive to the possibilities in the narrative of their own lives. And we love the art that is created when those possibilities are explored in live storytelling. The slam aspect seems to bring more serious attention to the performance - and this is a good thing. When you perform, your intention is to communicate but your attention must be on the audience - what are you giving them? Do you know why you care about the story you are telling? Then we have a chance to care about your story too.

I like to tell my storytelling students ( grades K- 12 ) that their story has to answer the 5 Ws - Who, What, When, Where and.... I draw out the " Why" and separate it from the rest of the Qs. We show the answers to the 4 Ws with details and experience. AND The whole story should answer the question "why?" without being explicit. I tell my young students that if the audience does not know why they just listened and why they should care? Your story is not "cooked" yet. And you need to go back to the kitchen of imagination and adjust. Maybe it is seasoning that is missing? Maybe it is a key ingredient? AND you may realize that you must to start all over from scratch when you see that your story idea is a hors d'œuvre and you thought to serve it as a main course? Or maybe you thought your story was a delectable confection, suitable for dessert and really? It is a main course and more savory than not. These are just some things we discover when we tell our story over and over. BUT we must have some idea, at least one intention before we ask others to listen in performance. We will continue to discover meaning and deepen our understanding and the meaning constantly evolves with the telling. - but if we are serving the story? It must feed our audience. Cook before serving!


Simon Brooks said...

Great article Norah, really liked it. It summed up how I feel about story in general and what I also try to do in schools. I loved the cooking analogy.

Simon Brooks said...

Hi Norah,

Loved the post. It sums up a lot of what I feel about storytelling and the power of story.

Keep up the great work.