I had the great honor of being invited to perform at the 19th annual New Jersey Storytelling Festival. Not living in New Jersey, it was flattering being one of the few who came from out of the state (I think there were a few from Pennsylvania). I do want to thank everyone who invited me on the NJ board. It was an amazing day, I met a lot of wonderful people, and the audiences were great.
What is Storytelling?
Many people in the United States think that storytelling is solely an event for children. The US is really alone in this. Adults all over the world enjoy storytelling events. That children are included is a bonus, and there are tellers who solely perform for youth.
There are story hours at libraries for young children, where librarians open a book and read from it. Elementary school teachers do the same thing. Is it storytelling or reading a story? You’ll hear people on both sides of the fence on that one.
What the rest of do is tell a story. We rarely, if ever, read from a book. A storyteller speaks from knowing/living the story inside. It might be a traditional tale (fairy, folk, myth, legend), real, an original story, an improvised tale, partially sung, an oral history…it is a story that the teller (short for…) likes if not loves. She/He normally feels an affinity for the tale.
It is rarely, if ever, memorized word for word. Parts of it, maybe, depending on the story. The teller will know the story beats, know the tale backwards and forwards, and shape the story as it resonates for them in the telling. Somethings might be added, deleted, altered, but the heart of the story remains.
A storyteller can sit or stand or, as in the case of myself and others, really work the stage. We must engage the audience, making eye contact, and speak in a clear voice, loud enough for the area we are working. It can be outside or in, on a stage or in front of a classroom.
There is no place a story can’t be told. It just takes an audience willing to listen. It is communication, a sharing, sometimes a communion of spirits, and a lot of times ones of mirth and other complex emotions.
Personally, no matter what I tell, I like to find an interactive element to engage my audience further. Call and response is an ancient storytelling tool, and I have seen many master tellers use it in performance.
Storytelling is all this and more. I do suggest that when you hear about a storytelling event, you seek it out. You might be surprised at what you discover.
“Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.” — Robert McKee
“There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.” ~ Ursula Le Guin
Storytellers at the NJ Storytelling Festival:
Thank you to:
Ken Galipeau; Anne Lemay; Ken Erb; Jack McKeon; David Emerson
Joe Dudis; Bernie Libster; Kathryn Weidener; Pat Kane; Julie Della Torre
Ken Karnas; Carol Titus; Gerry Fierst; Richard Stillman; Steve Noble
Rivka Willick; Luray Gross; Tara McGowan; Shifra Willick
Maria Loiondo; Debbie Santucci; Helen Wise
Group Members of: Patchwork; Garden State Storyteller’s League; Princeton Storytelling Circle; and New Jersey Storytelling Guild.