Experience and tell stories with all your senses
Storytelling is the art of oral narration without a textbook.
Stories are told through words, facial expressions, gestures and movement - in direct communication with the audience.
Storytelling is „Cinema in your Head“
Images are conjured up in the minds of the audience. the memory and imagination are stimulated into action, the audience is moved to another place and time.
Storytelling is participation
Storytelling takes place as an exchange between the narrator and the audience, and a storyteller who is flexible and open, never tells a story the same way twice.
Storytelling is reflection on today
Stories can allow us to reflect on the important themes of our times and create common ground for discussion. Weave your insights and knowledge into your thematic story, and allow your audience to delight in discovering them together with your main characters.
The difference between storytelling and theatre or readings
Unlike at a theatre performance, the storyteller seeks at every performance to communicate directly with the audience, with eye contact. According to the Scottish saying, a storyteller tells her story
“eye to eye, mind to mind, heart to heart” – with the audience.
Unlike at a reading, any paper or written text on stage is taboo. Oral literature may never have been written down or only as a storyboard of pictures or a list of titles. The storyteller makes eye contact with the audience and uses gestures and movement to tell the story. Ideally a storytelling performance is analogue 3D.
Stories know no borders
I. How big is your story?
Good stories have at least one main character who is presented with new challenges and grows as a person solving them. As spectators or listeners, we identify with the character(s) and soon his or her behaviour stands for the behaviour of humankind – at least for the duration of the story.
We see how this man or woman engages in conflict with friends and enemies, makes decisions, acts and overcomes the conflict. We experience the same process as if we had been there and share the same emotions.
The storyteller can decide to take a stance – and include philosophical, social and political perspectives and thus make the story multi-dimensional. Or he or she delves into the depths of the human psyche. However, he or she does it, the storyteller should be a researcher and not a parrot, just repeating a story as he or she once heard it. It helps to ask yourself: “Why am I telling this story – why today? Why here? Why to this audience?
Stories know no borders – unless, you create them.
II. Intercultural storytelling
Stories are wonderful door openers into the other culture. Stories reveal what we have in common.
An example from my storytelling practice:
A woman around 30 years old wearing a head scarf or hijab, is standing on the stage at the Storytelling Arena – Syrian Series. In the audience, some of the women, young and older are whispering among themselves.
On stage, the woman called Rana starts to tell her story with the title “Painting under the bed”. Her daughter is playing her Rana at age eight and lies down under the table with a pencil and sketch book.
Rana tells the audience how she had painted enthusiastically as a child and that every time her mother caught her painting under the bed, she had said “oh, please study medicine or law – Artists are always hungry.” From this point on, as they told us later, many women in the audience identified with Rana, and no longer saw her headscarf.
And at the latest, when they heard that her husband had supported her as an adult to realise her dream of studying Fine Art at the Academy in Damascus, they started to realise that the relationship between men and women from Syria was more complex than often shown in the media.
Stories can be told bilingually, organically swapping between languages during the narration. Telling stories in tandem with mother tongue speaker of another language can be linguistically and interculturally a wonderful experience both for the tellers and for the audience. We call this tandem storytelling – and it’s much more than just translating or interpreting. Its two or more people telling a story together.
When you look at your life, chose one key experience, decide on a focus, weave a narrative thread along an exciting tension curve and deliver your finished story in an entertaining way, you can move your audience – even motivate them to change.
Audiences want to be educated as well as entertained.
People love to be told stories from other peoples’ lives. We have one life, but we can experience multiple lives through stories. When the experiences related are painful, we find ourselves looking for mistakes, as we long to avoid making them ourselves and when the related experiences are ones of success and happiness, then we feel inspired to do the same or similar and achieve such success ourselves. Sharing the pain of your defeat as well as the joy of your success makes your audience respect you more. Too much misery or too much pure joy in a story can be very boring. The secret lies in the mix.
Storytelling requires little or no equipment
Unlike a film showing or theatre, storytelling needs little or no technical equipment, props or a set. And during the day, when the audience is small, we don’t even need electricity. At night or in a dark room, lights are preferable, so that the storyteller and audience can see one another. For big audiences, or in a room with poor acoustics, 1-2 microphones preferably cableless are preferable. When using lights, neither the storyteller nor the audience should be blinded by it, otherwise we lose an essential part of performance – the interaction through sight.