Storytelling Institute ILS-690-01
July 7 – 11, 2008
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Monday, July 7, 2008
I read The Whole Story Handbook last week and couldn’t understand the difference between an actor’s preparation for a role or a scene from that of a storyteller’s preparation. Many of the techniques that I learned in the one or two acting classes I took focused on the same points discussed in the book and in class such as “dancing in the moment”, “being present”, “where has the character been and where are they going in the scene and in the play?” and “who is this person?” It wasn’t until Carol gave her Thanksgiving story example which illustrated a storyteller shares the story as one would share at the dinner table that I finally understood the subtle difference. Storytellers give themselves to the presentation while actors must hide themselves for the sake of the role. The storyteller can give commentary and show pride while the actor must become invisible to the audience and the only portray the character.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Today we practiced how to prepare to tell a story. We read our story to each other in small groups and then practiced the first line of our story to the whole class. It was interesting to hear how different voice intonations and pauses can set-up the story. I will always have to go back to the test question “how would I tell my best friend this story?” when I read any first line. I really enjoyed the afternoon’s visualization exercise because it slowed me down and made me really focus and define my character. My big “aha” moment came when Carol asked if our character’s clothes were clean or dirty? I was focusing on the party-going daughter and realized that maybe I could consider her as a drunk, not a bohemian. While de-briefing with my class partner, I realized that I envisioned a New England farmhouse and I really needed the house from “Brideshead Revisited”! These exercises reinforced the process. Carol suggested storytellers really work with the author’s words and try to keep them as written in the folktale. However, we don’t have to be exact and if the word doesn’t fit the audience, or us, we can change them in a folktale.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
The morning session on how to reduce a test taker’s stress with kinesiology was very interesting. I can see how Jeanne’s techniques can be use with children in a class, and myself, to keep energized as well as to calm down before taking a test.
It was also interesting to compare storytelling styles between Jeanne and Carol. Jeanne related more personal events in her stories while Carol used more established stories. However, the fact that they loved their stories and use “the process” to relate to their audience was reinforced throughout the day. The afternoon session where we passed the “good news-bad news” talking stick to help children develop and maintain a plot is something I want to share with my good friend who teaches third grade. Jeanne’s other idea of having a 5th grader who may read at a 1st grade level learn a story from a picture book and present it to 1st graders is a great way to have children read and build up their confidence.
At the end of the day we discussed numbers used for repetition within the traditional folktale. The number “3” is mostly used in North America and European cultures while the number “4” is used by Native American cultures for north, south, east, and west to honor the four directions as created by the Great Spirit. The number “19” is typically used in Russian and Inuit cultures as they have a lot of snow.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Today was a great day to really practice my story. Although I forgot to introduce the fun-loving daughter and her two brothers at the beginning, I snuck her in at the will reading by saying she was out drinking and showed up late for the reading. The others in our group didn’t even notice that I introduced the siblings in the middle. After re-reading I realized more details of the story can come out once I become more familiar with it. When I listened to the other members in my group tell their stories, I could see the characters and scenes in their eyes and they all shared their passion for their story.
The exercise which had each of us say a line three to four different ways drove home Carol’s principle that storytelling is a process and that we won’t know what works or if it sounds real until we try the story out and see how it flows. I actually will feel better about telling my story to my family now. And maybe if I listen to a joke in a bar, I’ll remember the story with imagery so that I can retell it without giving the punch line first.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Listening to Tom Callinan was a great way to finish this course. His told stories with music and engaged his audience to join him in telling the story. His passion for the story showed as he interspersed folktales with personal stories that brought the story to life. The stories were such a part of him that they flowed along without any breaks.