They Chose Stories.
One of the attendees of the two-hour theatre workshop I presented on Friday suggested I name the evening, “Story Hour with Unglebower.” While I was not there merely to tell stories, the jocular comment nonetheless was appropriate to some degree, as I did share many stories both from my own experience and that of my theatre friends. It was my weapon of choice in my mission to impart my knowledge to those in attendance.
I was given free reign by my friend, the director of this theatre lab, to choose whatever subject matter I wanted for this workshop. I chose to cover how to correct mistakes one makes on stage during live performances. I shared a collection of true stories about mistakes I have made, those by others I corrected (or tried to) , and those mistakes that I helplessly witnessed as an actor in front of an audience over the years.
Not wanting to bore the audience, however, I designed my presentation in such a way that I would share advice, supported by stories from my past, for about half of my allotted time. For the second half, I created an activity.
When the time came I gave them the choice: do the activity, or listen to more of my stories.
They chose stories. Both hearing mine, and sharing some of their own.
I should not have been surprised by this selection by acclimation to continue with story telling. I take pride in my talent of telling stories in various mediums as it is what I do, and I have spent much of my adult life perfecting and improving ways to do it. (Written word, spoken word, acting.) And actors do love to travel down memory lane, (or perhaps down the theatrical via dolorosa) with a fellow actor who is presenting war stories from their past.
Yet I won’t take all of the credit for the group’s desire to hear more stories. Nor will I allow my material, culled from years as an actor to take all of the credit. (Though in all honesty some of the material is so golden I think anyone could tell these tales and have the attention of theatre and non-theatre folk alike.)
No, I give most of the credit to something I have addressed many times in my life and writings. Something around which not only this blog but my freelance writing business is built: stories matter.
Indeed they do. And not just in a theatre workshop, but everywhere.
There are of course terrible, boring stories out in the world. (I am relieved mine were not seen as such on Friday.) Yet even when we encounter a bad story, our first response is often to wish it had been a better story. This as opposed to wishing that no story at all had been told.
When in doubt, tell a story. Even if you tell a lame one, you are probably half a step ahead of someone who tries to convince, educate or relate to others without having a story to share. I came to an audience that contained a few people that are much younger than I am used to dealing with. That to me was a bit unnerving.
Yet I was determined to find some of my more memorable, or at least funnier theatre stories, and tell them with the conviction of someone who not only lived through them, but wanted to prevent others from having to experience similar circumstances. And it would appear that I succeeded.
We usually do succeed when we tell a memorable story, though. That is because the mere act of doing so is a success in its own right. It allows us to tap into some of the deepest wiring of the human brain, and it is the first doorway into the human spirit. We may not make the sale, get the bill passed or change the opinion, but we will have taken part in an art form so ancient that we might as well say it is concurrent with the history of the human being; we are telling stories.
Like many people, I don’t always assess my own talent accurately. I see adequate when others see impressive. I feel a sense of missing a mark when others see a bull’s eye. And even when I can see that I have worked hard and produced a great result, I can’t always explain the exact nature of my talent, or “how I do it.” Like with most talents there is an element of mystery to them, even to the practitioner. That is probably why beyond a certain point many refer to talents as gifts.
I don’t know if I am gifted. Sometimes I don’t even know if I am “talented”. But I know that in many areas I do happen to be equipped with many stories that I am eager to tell. And if by so doing I more often than not reach others the way I seemed to have reached the theatre workshop on Friday, what I have done with my life will be confirmed again and again. As it has been throughout the years.
I have stories to tell. Do you?