Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ghost Stories on the River

What a night for stories. Picture a setting on the banks of the mighty Ohio, huge trees overshadowing the pavilion, lights from the town on the other side blinking in the water. Kids in costumes straggle in with a few adults. It's spookily dim as we begin our tales.

The event was the brainchild of Donna Wilson, a storyteller who has a gift for knowing what will make a successful event. This one was low-key; she provide decorations, a mike and her stories, and I provided my stories.

This was the best performance I have seen from Donna. I've told with her several times now, and keep seeing improvement. One of the best ways to get better as a teller is to tell. And tell. And tell. Another way is to listen to and watch other tellers. and the third important ingredient is watching the audience and being able to read their reactions. Donna's ghost stories were perfect for the group we had tonight, and my tales went very well too.

On the drive home I thought about performance--driving 40 miles through quiet country and a few towns to get there, meeting people and just telling stories to them, then driving dark roads home. What makes me do this, over and over?

What I come to is this: it's the audience. Seeing their eyes, their delight, the memories I trigger. Tonight as I was telling Tailypo a young girl's eyes lit with pleasure, and when I got to the signature chant (Tailypo, tailypo, coming to get my tailypo) she know it and chimed right in! After the first time, I gave the mike to her for the repeated chants. That shared joy in the story is something I can't place a value on, and yet for all of us tonight the little girl's joy increased our enjoyment in a three dimensional way. Not only was I telling and they listening--now one of their own was participating and deepening the experience for us all.

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