I recently had an opportunity to do a fifteen minute presentation of storytelling at a library Performers Showcase. The last time I did was years ago with my company, The Brothers Grinn. We were a fast and furious (no drifting) improv storytelling theater company. We ALWAYS got bookings from those showcases. Now, we didn’t book everyone, as I know we were not for everyone in the room. Some never got the idea of what narrative improvisation really was.
We actually had one librarian tell me, after a performance where we had the audience in our hands every second, that we were NOT storytellers. The ONLY time she felt we were telling a “real” story was when we did a gimmick game: We would tell any fairy tale in a minute and a half, then in a minute, then 30 secs, 10 secs and 1 sec. THAT game..and it’s nothing but a gimmick game, in my opinion, was the only time she considered we were storytellers. Forget the fact that our stories had beginning, middles and ends, overcame problems, saved the day, etc. Nope. A gimmick game was TRUE storytelling.
What I learned from this example, and the above showcase, is that ones own perceptions, ones POV, when close ended and blinder driven, doesn’t allow much room for other interpretations. What I forgot was that exact thing at the showcase: I went in thinking like a performing artist, not looking at what I did through the eyes of the buyers, in this case librarians. Other times it was PTA/PTO moms: same difference.
I asked for feedback from the performance. I knew I hadn’t sold everyone, and the results that came back agreed with my assessment. Some loved me and would hire me, some would never hire me (about the same who definitely would), but the largest portion were in the middle, which usually means no jobs. In the space of 15 mins, I told three different stories to show range of what I can do. Any performing artist I’ve talked to, who has seen my videos of that day, say the same thing: great range, can see your telling skills, etc. What some of the librarians saw? Disjointed, what did one story have to do with the other, TOO DRAMATIC (love that one), etc. So, everything that someone in the arts commented on, it was what I was going for. Some of the comments from the librarians showed they did not get me.
It was a learning experience once again. As artists, we get rejections time and again. I took the good, bad and indifferent ones and saw what I need to do for the next showcase. That’s on my end, and I’m grateful for the feedback.
A word to the “bookers” at showcases:
Please leave your own tastes at home, and really see what your patrons/school community likes.
- You are not purchasing for your own entertainment but the library or school.
When a performer asks for some interactive help, PLEASE help them out.
- I felt I had to jump up and support a few other performers who kept asking and asking, and you could see them sweat. It’s not fair to the performer. It may have looked like I was grandstanding, but.. suffer not a performer to sweat when they don’t have to.
Say “Thank You” to a performer when walking by them, whether you are going to hire them or not.
- Ignoring them, or walking over to another performer & engaging them in your presence, is just rude and tacky.
Leaving your seat while another performer is on to talk to one who just finished? One woman in particular ignored an entire room of performers, booked someone who just came off stage, and never saw the person who was on at the time. She did that THREE times.
- We all just looked on, and all felt one thing: very, very tacky.
What do you think?