Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Life of A Storyteller: It's Like This, too...

It is a beautiful thing to be an artist. And I am ever grateful that I have work that allows me such full expression of who I really am. But lest I get too ecstatic in this " art and life are beautiful" vein, I feel I should mention that the merry life of a live performer is like this too...

It's Like This, too: the life of a storyteller in two short acts

Telling stories in an urban park on an pre-inspected surface...

 ACT 1 "More Interesting than Dog Poop"
Scene: A Summer gig, not too long ago  -

My work sends me to some funky venues.
This one was a park along side a highway where the planes are low overhead in their approach to Logan. It was about 90ยบ F.

It was also before lunch and maybe after nap
About 20 kids about 3 years old each,
walking like somnambulists, holding on to
clothesline were brought out to me and
we were all led to a huge tree.

How primal - how essential !
Me, a tree and a group of children.
This is storytelling.
This is what it is all about!

The disaffected teen staff were sullen
and glum. Who could blame them?
It was so damn hot, humid and smelly.
But when I pointed out that the broken glass mixed in the
wet with dew covered grass as unsuitable for tender toddler bottoms of my audience they
became even unhappier.
We moved around the tree and finally to another tree.
And I started at last.
A plane roared overhead. I pushed on.
Traffic flowed and growled in the background.
I engaged and cavorted.
Then a bright and perspicacious little boy noticed a huge dog
turd about 18" inches away from my foot.

God. I wished I had seen that first.

"Wow. Look! Dog P-O-O-P!"

20 little heads were snapped around and riveted
in attention on the brown, perfectly
formed canine offering by my foot. The teen counselors perked up.
This became a moment of intense interest. My audience could not get enough -
It quickly evolved into group participation.
They had to see and share and even wanted to touch.
This last desire snapped the teen's into action.
They had no tools to remove the intruding turd so the counselors worked on crowd control.

And the rest of my gig was spent in shameless competition.
By god ! I am storyteller!

I am more
interesting than dog poop.
Aren't I?
Story is bigger than this!
Isn't story bigger than this?

Apparently not.
I bought a sound system next year.
I bring plastic bags.
I know who I am.

I am a storyteller and that is for shizzle!

Such is the power of storytelling.

Act 2  And I thought dog poop was stiff competition? 
Scene: A school gig in the winter

Performer's Affirmation - "Don't lose concentration."
One day,  I tested the power of storytelling.
For real. I was right in the beginning set of my presentation in a cafetorium filled with 300 or so K- 2 grades sitting on their bottoms. The kindergardners were already a bit rambunctious. I was intent on keeping their attention. As is often the case, they are disoriented in a big space where they can only see me or the person next to them.  I usually request to see them in the warm familiarity of their classrooms.  In their own space their teacher's eyes, arms and laps are always close by.
Their sketchy attention was soon downgraded to a non-issue when a poor little 1st grader quietly let fly. 
I saw some of the action in my peripheral vision. Luckily the calm and very quiet 1st grader who lost his/her breakfast and made a spectacular technicolor yawn was behind the K- folk who were now with me and my story.

The space for 15 feet around the incident was quickly and immediately evacuated.

This happened so quickly and noiselessly that I wasn't sure what was going on until I saw there was a hole in what had been a visual field full of 1st graders.
And in the middle of the large white space
was an enormous puddle of
red vomit.

For quite a while the spot was vacant. The news was passed quickly through the students and rippled in whispers to the back rows where 1st and 2nd graders started poking their heads up like
gophers to try and "see".

A teacher covered the one foot circle of
vomit, with small paper napkins.
This manouever took some time. She was thorough. And slow.
Finally the fire engine red circle with orange chunks
was covered up. Mostly.

And then janitor came. Moving
with the measured,
precise movements of a character in a Noh play,
he carefully swept and then
he brought out sawdust and sprinkled and swept some more.
He returned with disinfectant
and sprayed and wiped and wiped again.

It was not a simple task. A laborious process. A careful cleaning.

But, by god - I was more interesting than throw up and clean up. I never stopped and never lost the
crowd or my train of thought.

This is the POWER of storytelling. Essential. Deep. Organic. Human.


Both these "acts" were previously published in this very blog 4 years ago. That was back in the day, when I first started a blog, thanks to Andrea Lovett, who walked me through the set up.

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