In my recent class on storytelling I'd been exposed to what was about to happen today. I read articles about how storytelling can capture any audience because the human mind is intrinsically organized to understand stories, I told stories to my classmates and heard them tell their own, and I even went to story-telling events and felt myself captured by the storytellers in front of me. But until today, I remained skeptical.
I was skeptical of my own power. Here I was, listening to and reading about storytellers at all different levels of all different ages. It was easy to tell who the masters were, the ones who made you actually see what they were telling so much so that you couldn't look away. It was also easy to tell the people who weren't born into storytelling, for whatever reason. And not everyone is. Everyone can learn, surely, but there are some people who, for whatever reason, take naturally to the art form of storytelling.
I wasn't sure if I could be one of those. Sure, I've always told long winded stories (that's basically what this blog is, stories about my experiences with art). Theatrics have also always been a part of my repertoire, earning my the family nickname of Tallulah after Talluluah Bankhead. From years of singing and acting my diaphragm is strong enough that I can make myself heard in a gymnasium full of summer campers without completely ruining my voice. I've always known that I come alive when I'm in front of people; I thrive of off human interaction.
But could I tell stories?
As of now I can comfortably say that I can. At Story Stomp, a festival dedicated to "connect[ing] the imaginative worlds of reading and art" at Springstep in Medford that took place today, I performed in a section called "Storytelling with Miranda." I told three stories, The Enormous Carrot, The Gold in the Chimeny, and Stone Soup. After a day of dancing, cupcakes, and theater-movement activities I wasn't sure how the children would react to being asked to sit and listen.
The room was a wonderful chaos when I stepped in, with children playing tag, parents talking, and arts and crafts all over the floor. While we were gathering the children together I had them all do a little movement exercise that I used to do in choir so that they would realize something was starting again and then they all sat down.
For at least half an hour 35-50 (I'm horrible at guessing numbers) pairs of eyes were trained on me as I exaggerated all my usual antics, turning what are normally huge hand gestures into leaping body gestures. Both the children and their parents moved along with me, sometimes as volunteers, sometimes supplying information, and sometimes because a child just wanted to get a little closer.
Unlike when I play music or act in a play, I wasn't nervous. Beforehand, yes. But once the stories started all I had to do was relinquish control and let them happen. And oh man, did they happen. I'm not sure who had more fun, the children, the parents, or me.
At the end of the last story Allie Fiske, the wonderful woman who asked me to tell my stories, and I did a little configuration so as soon as I said "...and then music started to play and they all began to dance!" there was indeed music and the children and their parents did indeed get up to dance with me. Once the music was over and the last line of the song was done, one little girl who couldn't have been more than three years old came straight up to me and said "But that was only two stories!"
"It actually was three," I told her.
"But it was so short! I wanted to hear more!"
Can you imagine? A three year old who wanted to sit still and listen to stories after over half an hour of already doing so! Her and multiple other children and their parents came up to me saying thank you and giving me compliments that at the beginning of the day I wasn't sure if I would deserve. But none of their compliments felt as wonderful as hearing everyone saying "Stooooone Soup!" along with me, or dancing as characters in a story, or hearing some children ask to hear more stories.
As I left, a woman who had been watching through one of the many windows in the room said "You have a lot of energy!"
"I just never grew up," I replied.
"Don't ever," she told me with a grin.
I responded that I didn't plan to, and indeed I don't. As I bounced home, swinging my arms like one of the characters in my stories, I thought with my own ear-to-ear grin, this is something I could do for the rest of my life.