Yesterday was the first time in my life I participate in a workshop with a performing artist and storyteller. Being a writer is a form of storytelling, but being a performing storyteller is different. On some levels, these two forms are the same, but on other levels they are different. They are the same in that both use stories of other people – the raw material of art. As a writer, I sit with the stories in my head in solitude with a notebook and a pen, and make attempts at creating something out of them. The stories I use are stories around me – media items, stories I hear, ideas that float around. I mix and match them in ways that create something new. I use fragments of stories I hear, parts of conversations with friends, situations I witness of have experienced. I use the stories in a responsible and ethical way, making efforts that the creation that results is true in its essence to the themes I choose to deal with. In this sense, I think a storyteller goes through a similar process. What is different is the interaction with people and people’s stories. When writing fiction, I don’t go around telling people that their stories will be written down. Because I don’t write individual stories. One fictional character’s life is usually made up of many fragments of different elements of different people, material which is then processed and fictionalized through imagination. But the people from whom I borrow characteristics, speech, traits, or parts of situations do not actively participate in the process. This is the one element that strikes me as the most significant difference between fiction writing and performance storytelling.
I don’t claim that I know how storytellers work and collect their materials for performance; I only know of one such experience with one specific storyteller. It was a three-hour workshop, and the ultimate purpose of the storyteller was to collect our stories, process them, and then create a performance based on our stories. It seems simple, but those three hours drained me. The storyteller worked with us first by sharing one of her own stories, to establish trust. Then we did some trust building in a circle by passing on different forms of energies to one another. We then sat in twos and shared some personal experiences, then switched, until each woman talked to all other women. We tapped deep down into some hidden memories through meditation and free association, matching objects to memories and people close to us.
We were left with these associations at the end of three hours, to continue in a further session. I went home drained, confused, and surprised at these two emotions. I understand that I was left overwhelmed with emotions and memories which surfaced, and I need to face them and process them. I slept for twelve straight hours, and a day after, I still feel drained both physically and emotionally.
#storytelling #art #performance
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