Storytellers – here is the warning sign

By Limor Shiponi

About a week ago I received a message containing a call for proposals. The institute perpetuating it is the artists’ union; the intitute calling for proposals is a stage-arts school. Translation:

Calling actors/artists to propose a “storytelling” performance:

1.      The artist will select a children’s story (as in written by an author – l.s.)
2.      The artist will dramatize the story and turn it into a 50 min. performance for children aged 3-7.
3.      The artist will create a performance (solo, tandem or group) that dramatizes the story into an experience by using elements like – costumes, music, musical instruments, makeup, puppets, basic furniture etc.

Out of respect I’ll save the rest of the details painting a miserable picture concerning terms and conditions including a very low pay. The only thing I have to add is this – if I wanted to apply I couldn’t, because I don’t fit the artistic requirements.

Reminding you this post is written by a prominent storyteller. Remember the discussion “If theater uses the word storytelling to sell really good theatrical performances… are you comfortable using the word theater to sell really good storytelling?” If you thought then there is no problem with the above, now you know where it’s going.

12 thoughts on “Storytellers – here is the warning sign”

  1. I read your post and am not sure what you are saying. Say more? Storytelling is a commodity? Yes. Storytelling is a buzz-word now for any type of communication? Yes. The skill of storytelling is whatever people want it to be? Yes. Good marketing now equals booking gigs rather than skill getting gigs? Yes.

    1. As you well know, this is not the first one that catches my eyes. It’s just the first one I’ve seen that blocks out storytellers completely. Made me think it might open some storytellers’ eyes to understand what they’ve been promoting through their “everything goes” attitude, running away from real issues.

  2. Okay, I don’t see the qualifications posted so that is the missing piece for me. How do you not qualify? I’m not sure that “storytellers,” using the term loosely, are concerned about real issues anymore. “Storytelling” is now a pathway to getting gigs and for some people there is profit in that. Building “tribes” has now surpassed the service to the community aspect of storytelling. Warning signs, definitions, artistic integrity are out the door in many cases. The emperor has no clothes and even after the little child points it out, there’s no one leaving the parade in shock.

    1. What you see is what there is. The rest is technicalities, terms and pay. I don’t qualify because:
      I don’t tell children’s stories written by authors. I don’t tell stories written by authors in general.
      I don’t believe there is such a definition in storytelling as “children’s stories”. There are stories not suitable for children under a certain age, that’s all.
      I don’t dramatize – I tell.
      I don’t use props unless there is a very special justification for using them. If I need all those props that means my telling sucks.

      In addition to the rest of the terms this is a call for proposals by young actors doing “mall style” productions. The really low ones.

    2. Everything you wrote can be true with one stunning exception – where masterful storytellers insisted on top performance and tight artistic governance – this is not happening. People say they are snobs, dictators, whatever, but 15 years later what they have is something we can dream about.

  3. I appreciate your perspective on why you “don’t” quailfy.

    As far as all those names…I’ve been called all of them but only in the last few years of my 26 in doing this. There is great personal reward for me in giving a well-prepared, researched and connected storytelling performance. I get it.

    1. Yes, the child calling “the emperor has no clothes” is going for personal reward from now on. I admit I always wondered what happened to that kid. Now I know.

  4. There’s a time for reward. Personal satisfacion is not an evil. As a storyteller, a performer of the stories, I’m doing what I do because I must do it and in that comes the reward. Gratefully, it does touch the hearts and souls of the audience. However, “everybody is as storyteller!” rather than “everybody has a story to share” is something we are fighting with now. I’m tired. Or at least today. Tomorrow, I will be back where I need to be.

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