Thursday, March 26, 2015

Storytelling: The Beauty and the Magic

Johnsonville Elementary 2015

I spend a great deal of time talking about the trials and tribulations of being a professional storyteller, but there is obviously another side to it or we wouldn't do it.

Storytelling is awesome.

When I use the word 'awesome' I don't mean it in the frivolous way that we toss that word around in our everyday vernacular.  'This shake is awesome.  That color is awesome.  The episode of that show was awesome'.

I mean it in the way Wesbster defined it; causing feelings of fear and wonder : causing feelings of awe.

I have wonderful experiences with audiences all the time that put a big grin on my face and make my heart soar.

Johnsonville Elementary March 2015

There are too many to list, and far too many to share, but I will endeavor to put forth the most common ones.

One of the fun things that happens is that I am lost in story when I tell.  I am surrounded by it and carried by it.  When I tell Sody Saluradus, I have a section where I sing the Saluradus Song with my eyes closed.  I can see the road, the morning sun filtering through the trees, and smell the fresh air.  When I open my eyes and see the audience, I am always a little surprised.  I know they are there, but I almost expect to see the country road I'm traveling.  I've been telling this story so long one would think I would get used to opening my eyes and being in an auditorium instead of in the woods, but I am always surprised!

It is not uncommon for the audience to want to reflect the story back at me.  I see them doing the hand movements, voicing the words, and watching their bodies and faces get as lost in the story as I am.  over the years I've watched people try desperately to sit on their hands during a storytelling set, so I have added more and more audience participation.  I know what it is like to want to move around in a story, and how hard it is to stop once you start!  I actively invite the audience to play.

It is always terrific when the audience members lose it during a story and surprise themselves.  it is equally cool when an audience figures something out at the same time and the share an 'aha!' moment.

I love watching lightbulbs go off across the audience in waves.

Having little voices, and adolescent voices demand to know when you will be returning is also fun.  They always want to know when I am coming back for more stories.  "Are you coming back on Monday?  Will you be here next week?  Are you coming back next year?"  Both kids and teachers will ask this question.

It is cool to connect with someone only to have them realize they've seen you on stage somewhere years ago.  It happens all over the place.  Apparently, when I am in my civilian clothes, it is hard to recognize me!

It is fun to have some giant, adult man who can look down at the top of my head realize I told him stories when he was in third grade, and he totally geeks out about it.

I actually attend services with a fellow who occasionally reminds me that he used to listen to my stories when he was in second grade back in Pennsylvania and it is still wild to him that he knows me in person.

It is fun to have teachers amazed that students would sit and listen to you for 45 minutes to an hour without stop, and still have a good time.

"You got fifth graders to give up PE and not care.  That's amazing!"

it is really wonderful to have people tell me that I remind them of Jackie Torrence, one of my heroes and an early mentor when I was just beginning.

It is cool to spend time talking to the kids and learning things from them.

It is neat to have someone decide that they absolutely love storytelling.

It is wonderful for kids to tell me that they know stories, or someone in their lives tells them stories.

The list of things that happens when you go into a school, the amazing things kids say, the joy people have at sharing stories, the bonds you build with an audience, the amount of joy and laughing you bring, the thought provoking stories you share, the times when the audience makes you laugh as much as you make them laugh, and the sharing of tales.

'My books circulate when you come to tell stories!' The media specialists tell me.

'Kids demanded to see the videos on Bookhive  and Youtube when we got back into the room!' Teachers tell me.

Do the monkey noise!  Talk like the mouse!  Do the owl!  Can we hear another tongue twister?

There are lots and lots of things that can be said about being a storyteller.  It is extremely fun, full of its own kind of magic, and it feeds your soul.  It is a roller coaster ride of laughter and surprise.

About a week ago, I found a site that catalogued all of the Let's Pretend records from my youth.  I was shocked.  The MP3s were free, and I downloaded all of them .  The song wasn't there, but the tales were just as I remembered them.

The magic of those Let's Pretend stories are with me still.  I love the fact that I get to share that kind of magic with children all over the world.

Storytelling is amazing....but don't be fooled, it really is hard work!

Happy Telling!

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