Professional Storyteller

Share a Story - Change the World

All the Fringe that's fit to print

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All the Fringe that's fit to print

This group is for tellers who have performed, will perform, are considering performing or attending or are willing to help tellers who attend or perform at fringe festivals. We can post openings, information or offer or ask for help.

Members: 49
Latest Activity: Oct 10, 2016

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Comment by Chloe (Midnight Storytellers) on February 26, 2011 at 5:35am
With you all the way, J D Hickey. Sadly I have little contact with our UK gay community (for fear of being labelled a 'fag hag'.. /sigh.../) but my perception is that the boys and dykes are open minded and receptive to non-standard artforms.  UK storytelling, however, has this huge hang-up about 'ego free' performance.. which tends to take the fun out of things, in my experience.. /deeper sigh.../ Others can explain far better than I how the zero ego thing is supposed to work. I happen to think my job is make audiences want more storytelling, not overtly preach or teach, and I don't care to check my personality at the door... Doesn't go down well here - except with audiences... :)
Comment by John David Hickey on February 22, 2011 at 3:55pm

@Rivka: Push/fight back against who? The public? We can't demand that they open their minds and hearts to storytelling. What we need to do is understand what the public values and put ourselves in line with that, all while staying true to our own artistic integrity. It's a tricky balancing act, but it can produce results.

A few years ago, a bunch of us local tellers decided to try to put a festival together. We got some awesome talent to perform, secured some great venues, and worked the media as much as we could. Unfortunately, we only got a lackluster response (and we barely broken even). Our philosophy was "If we build it, they will come."

Now we've gone crazy again and decided to give it another go, only this time we'll be appealing to some very specific communities for their support and attendance instead of fishing in too broad a pond for support. For example, there's a storyteller from the Yukon named Ivan E. Coyote who is big in the Queer community, so if we get her to come our our festival, we'll be sure to target our local Queer communities to encourage them to attend the show.

Comment by Rivka Willick on February 22, 2011 at 2:33pm
I just wish storytellers would fight back.  Storytelling is a term used for spoken, unscripted performances.  Why have we let other art forms hi jack the word.  Instead of reinventing and hiding ourselves, maybe we develop a callous and push back. 
Comment by John David Hickey on February 22, 2011 at 1:13pm

Word Jazz is another form of Spoken Word that has a strong following, although it does require music. I don't have a problem with music in storytelling, in fact, I think it can complement it quite well! When I put together a two-hour show, I work with a musician friend of mine and not only does he play during the stories, he plays between the tales as well. I find that interspersing music between stories gives the audience a chance to rest and shift their focus, leaving them fresh and ready for the next tale.

Chloe listed some of the other bad PR that we storytellers get from the public, but I think there's also the idea that because the stories are not true, they contain no truth or are not relevant to today. Spoken Word is rooted in the now, in the present, so people tend to relate to it easily, whereas mythic storytelling is rooted in symbol and metaphor, often requiring discussion to plumb the depths of its meaning beyond its entertainment value.

Also, the stories tend to be longer than Spoken Word pieces. In our modern, instant access society, many people have very short attention spans and they want it to be fun now, not fun later. Consequently, some storytellers feel they need to resort to inserting humorous moments in their stories to carry the audience to the moment when the secret of the story is revealed (not necessarily the end). This technique can be good, or it can be very distracting and annoying when it starts unraveling the universal thread within the story itself.

In trying to address some of these public perception problems, I find working with music to be helpful (see my YouTube tale Lex and the Devil). But like Chloe says: the challenge is to get them into the space. Once there, they love it, but it's always a difficult sell.

Comment by Chloe (Midnight Storytellers) on February 22, 2011 at 11:48am

I agree with J D Hickey. In the UK it would appear that the general public despises 'storytelling' - they can't jump fast enough to the assumption that storytelling is kiddyfodder for 3-5 year-olds. Province of the 'stickies' and no more.. and that 'storytellers' are exclusively feeble minded middle aged nobodies who have failed in everything else but can just about summon up saccharine fluffy bunnies... Yup, this all makes me SPIT...! 

   I am very seriously working on how I can promote my work without the word 'storyteller' or 'storytelling'. For some years I've used Story Cabaret and 'verbal jazz' - which only works for people who know what storytelling is. The infuriating thing is that storytelling only works for people who know what storytelling is! - new (adult) audiences have to be dragged kicking and screaming to hear a storyteller; then they love it!

    I will never forget the radio presenter who interviewed me, in some depth, about 3 years ago: he said his image of a storyteller (in the UK) was "an old bloke with a beard and a big stick up on stage mumbling to himself." The horror of that is - how often is he right?!

Comment by Christi U. on February 22, 2011 at 10:17am

@John: I completely understand! I would much rather tell to adults or even teens, but everything I'm booking right now is for kids. I guess I'll just have to build my audience. I wonder if comedians ever have the same problem.

  Have you ever heard Minton Sparks? Her storytelling writing/performing style  reminds me more of free-form prose or spoken word, especially since she is often accompanied by a guitar background. Yet, she is advertised as a storyteller. The world definitely isn't black and white, but it's hard to market in a fluid kind of world.

  Do you think the age issue is the only "bad PR" we suffer?

Comment by John David Hickey on February 21, 2011 at 4:12pm

@Christi: I find that storytelling can be a difficult sell to adult audiences because the public sees storytelling as something suitable only for children and families, and therefore, not interesting or entertaining for adults.

And if you try to publicize a storytelling event as an Adult event, people come with the expectation that it will be sexual or racy in some way. In my repertoire, I have stories that are not suitable for children, but that's only because they are too long or have concepts that children under 12 don't understand.

Spoken Word can have the same problem, but in reverse. Spoken Word events are expected to be racy, edgy, and adults and not really appropriate for children. However, people can understand that you can tone down a Spoken Word event for a younger audience, but they don't understand how an adult audience would enjoy a storytelling event ("Stories are for kids").

I remember telling my aunt that I was a storyteller, to which she responded "So you tell to kids? No? Oh... so you tell stories to the elderly? Neither? Well who is left to tell to?"

Comment by Silverchin on February 21, 2011 at 4:03pm
I am producing our first FRINGE stage for Texas Festival this year.  We're starting out carefully - since the powers that be need a name I'm calling it "FRINGE: from tradition to innovation."  Everyone at Texas Festival knows its FRINGE storytelling.  Am very excited this is finally happening.  Things tend to move more than slow down here and head-butting doesn't prove anything.
Comment by Christi U. on February 21, 2011 at 3:19pm

@John: I like "Delicious Lying"! That's just fun and rolls off the tongue. It also calls to the many "Liars' Contests", i.e. Tall Tales competition held all over the country.

   TaelStrum sounds healthy & chaotic. I look forward to progress reports on that front as well.

  What kind of bad PR do you think "storytelling" suffers? I'm curious about your own thoughts of the subject.

Comment by John David Hickey on February 21, 2011 at 3:04pm

Well... I'm noticing that Spoken Word doesn't seem to suffer from the same bad PR that storytelling does, even though there's lots of overlap between the two disciplines.

Therefore, instead of "storytelling", I was going to go with "Mythic Spoken Word" or "Delicious Lying". I find Mythic Spoken Word is the closest thing to storyteller with using the "ST" word. Then I just need to find a theme to follow and work something out with my musician friend (we recently formed a band called TaelStrum (http://www.documentia.ca/taelstrum/)).

When we did the Montreal Fringe in 2004, we had a show called "You Don't Know Jack", which was a collection of Jack tales as told by two storytellers (myself and Dylan Spevack-Willcock). Although the show itself didn't do as well as we had hoped, we did take the show into a studio and record it and write the stories out as a book/CD. You can download the tracks or buy the book/CD at:

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/jdhadsw

 

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