Professional Storyteller

Share a Story - Change the World

I've often explained to newbies that one of the benefits of telling stories at a Fringe Festival is the possibility that the press will review the show, and thus an investment in the show can reap benefits in the future as the quotes that appear in the reviews can then be used in publicity and marketing materials.


But that assumes that the reviews are positive, and that also assumes that the reviewers understand what you're doing with your storytelling.


I'm in the midst of a run at the 2010 Capital Fringe Festival, and so far four reviewers have come to see my show, 2 from newspapers, and 2 from theatre websites. They've been positive reviews, but it's clear that the reviewers, primarily versed in theatre, don't quite know how to review a show made up of folk tales and fairy tales-- one reviewer wrote:

"Chart Toppers of 1349! is interesting, fun, and I have certainly never seen anything like it at Fringe. However, it’s not for everyone; Ereneta is really just a storyteller telling folk tales, which is great if that is your particular cup of tea. I can say (and I do mean this as a compliment) that I feel as if I have been to the best school assembly of my entire life."


The Washington Post devoted most of its review to explaining the set-up of the show (i.e. imagine there's a Top 40 countdown of the most requested stories of the mid-14th century in Europe), which I would have thought the show description itself already explained.


Now, I totally understand this: their job, as theatre critics, is to inform their readership (made up of theatregoers), what to expect and whether the show (out of a field of 130+ entries in this Fringe) is worth their time.


And it is a question of expectations: the Capital Fringe is mostly a theatre festival (very few dance shows, one magic show, one (maybe 2) puppet shows, one stand up act, two rock and roll shows. There are several solo performers in the Festival... most of them would fit under the storytelling umbrella (as personal memoir)... but a typical solo storytelling show would have a recognizable dramatic arc and so a theatre critic could reasonably expect to fell that they are watching theatre.


Now, I don't expect the media to have storytelling critics on their staff.


But next time, I must be sure to prepare the media better... this year I was remiss in not sending out a press release. And the lessons learned this year mean that future press releases may have to explain storytelling and how it differs from theatre.



Tags: capital, fringe

Views: 29

Replies to This Discussion

I had a very similar experience at the capital fringe a couple years ago. Different fringes have different atmosphere and present different challenges. Theatre reviewers just don't know what to do with tellers, and some of them may be connected to local theatres. I found out one online critic gave low ratings to any performance group she wasn't connected to.

I also had a review very similar to yours. I was performing my show LABOR DAZE a show filled with many graphic stories about birth. The reviewer wrote that she found the stories compelling and had retold all of them at least 3 times during the weekend, but then she added that maybe it would be better if they were performed at the dinner table or library. I did a story about the invention of forceps, another about King Louis ordering the use of stirrups so he could get a better view and a third about a enslaved woman in the antebellum South who hid her labor while out in the cotton fields. Do you really think these subjects are dinner table talk?

How many plays did she repeat 3 times?

I don’t know if better PR would help. If it does, please let me know. I think maybe direct confrontation at the start of each show. What do you think?




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