Monday, November 28, 2016

Audience Participation: Covert and Overt - Part 1

Text of Epaminondas

Part 1 - Audience Participation: Covert and Overt Part 1

Part 2 - Enlisting the Audience

Part 3 - Enlisting the Audience - Covert

Part 4 - 5 Tips To Enlist The Audience

The audience is a critical tool in the art of storytelling. Being able to connect with an audience, convince them to follow you on a wild escapade through the imagination, and give you permission to invade their minds with thoughts, images, and ideas is a must for a successful telling experience.

So, how do you do it?

Well, for starters, assume that every audience member has their own battles that they were fighting just before you began.

Your goal is to make them lose track of those battles and stand beside you in whatever quest you have planned for them. In order to do that, you must be present with your audience. Storytelling only happens when you and your audience are sharing something between you.

Audience participation is an excellent way to achieve this.

For me, every single story is an audience participation story.

Now, that does not mean that every story I tell requires somebody from the audience to get up onto the stage. It also doesn't mean that every audience is required to jump around or even speak in unison.

When I say they are actively participating, it means they have been drawn into your world. You can tell they are with you by how they react to you during the telling. Every story I tell has moments built into it that allows the audience to express their place in the adventure.

To that end, I think about audience participation in two different categories.

One is overt. You are calling on the audience to participate.

One is covert. You build things into the story that allow an audience to respond in particular ways. Their reactions can tell you where they are and help you decide if you need to change, add, or emphasize something.

Let us begin with the overt forms of audience participation.

1. You Call Someone Out of The Audience To Participate On Stage: This is as simple as asking for a volunteer.

2. Rehearse The Audience: You tell the audience what you want them to do. They practice it several times, and then you start telling.

3. Assign Parts: You tell parts of the audience to do certain things at certain times. ex. "When the lion says, "Stop!" Everyone on this side should yell, "Not until Monday!"

4. Encourage The Audience To Participate: This is as simple as saying that you might need help, and they should feel free to jump in.

The Covert forms are much more interesting to me. Here is a small sampling of things you can do with an audience.

1. Build in a place for the audience to participate if they want without asking them to do so.

2. Allow for moments when you expect some kind of reaction from an audience whether verbal or physical, but don't linger or emphasize them.

3. Check to see who if anyone is mirroring you.

4. Monitor the audience to see how they are reacting through particular points in the tale

I was planning to go through all of the covert and overt in this post, but after reading what I'd written I decided it was too wordy and some of it didn't make sense out of context, so I scrapped it.

I'll take another approach that I think will make more sense.

I'll do a ?three? part series using a single tale showing how I present it for performance. The story we'll use is Epaminandas. Here is a version that came out in picture book form.

Next week I will break down this story and explain how, why and where I use both covert and overt elements. I will explain what I do, what I hope happens, and what usually happens. I will also talk about how the covert elements that I build into stories help me shape and craft material over the long term.

Now, there are some of out there who will remember this story because of its appearance in an incredibly racist text back in the early 1900's.

Before you start yelling at me about this story being "inappropriate" I would like to point out that the story is not responsible for the heinous pictures someone decided to add to it.

It is actually based on a type of Jack Tale. There are a number of these tales and they deal with Noodleheads, or people who aren't clever.

I have had African American adults of a certain age thank me for telling the story because they were able to reclaim it after the horrendous pics in the book they remember from when they were elementary school and somebody thought bringing in this book was a great idea since they couldn't find many books with black folks depicted in them.

Either way, check out the bare bones of the story.

Happy Participating!

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