What comes first: the Improvisation or the Storyteller? With yesterday’s post (Improvisation and Your Life), I’d have to say improv. Storytelling happens as we gain life experience and referencing, but we have stories read/told to us when we are infants, so..hmmm.
A Storyteller who performs/Tells in front of an audience, unless they have memorized the original story they are telling word for word and never alter anything, improvise their work. It may not be a conscious decision, but it happens. The mood of the day, the mood in the room one is telling in, a new thought, a part left out, then brought back in, etc, all lead to the moment of improvisation. Something topical or eventful in the tellers life may alter the way he/she would retell a story that they’ve told many times before. It’s all good, because it comes from being in that moment. It’s not etched in stone scripted, and if you deviate from the actual words the lawyers will descend!
How many times did Grandpa’s story change when it was repeated for the 1,000th time. Yes, there will be the “call and response parts”, the one you all know by heart and maybe stop listening to…but, what is added/deleted/expanded upon? Conversational storytelling goes through it’s changes as much as any “professional” storytelling does.
The company I founded in 1994, The Brothers Grinn, started off as an Improvisation Troupe for family audiences. I was inspired to do this through an improvisational life moment: I was co-leading a weekly improv class, and was approached by a member of the town to put together some members to perform for a celebration event. I did, we rehearsed, and when we got there…we were performing for a lawn full of children! We had prepared a “normal” program of adult themed improv games/structures. I took what we had planned, threw out the pieces that I felt just would not work for kids, adjusted what was left, and just said “make it kids friendly,” which for some was REALLY hard, but…it worked. The kids loved being interactive with us, the laughs were astounding, and the parents…the very tired, bored looking parents stopped looking bored and tired and had a great time.
From that came the troupe I was going to lead for the next twelve years.
Just less than a year into performing, though, something did not feel 100% for me. The parts of our shows that I REALLY enjoyed and felt were the bravest work, and clean, were the ones that were more narrative at heart. I made a decision that did not sit well with a number of the cast. Two left almost immediately, and a few stayed on but eventually walked away as well, since what they really enjoyed were the improv games. As much as I hated to see them go, and I did, for the most part, it was a major turning point for Grinn.
We became The Brothers Grinn, an interactive improvisational storytelling performance troupe. A mouthful, but…it worked. We did over 1,100 shows in our twelve years, and NEVER told the same story twice. Everything was created on the spot, and our daily mood and the mood of the audience and whatever the Sociological/Economic/Political landscape was filtered into our shows.
Melding Storytelling (a love I’ve had all my life), Theater and Improvisational Theater was a blessing. From my epiphany (never an “aha” moment..EPIPHANY..yes, YodaBrant, another rant/pet peeve) in 1994, I had twelve years of fun performing for some wonderful audiences.
That’s what improvisation does: it opens doors to new ideas, new paths to take.
That’s what storytelling does: it reaches out and engages in it’s sharing.
How are you an Improvisational Storyteller?
(PS: if you like The Brothers Grinn logo: it was made for me by a good friend, Chuck Davis and he is available to work on a logo for you on a work for hire basis…contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org)