Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Chasing Story


I recently spent a few days at a cottage in the middle of the woods with storyteller Ruthanne Edward and poet Kathryn Hunt, prepping for our upcoming National Arts Centre show The Warrior Queen: Chasing Boudicca. 

For a few days we were isolated, just the three of us, and we read books and poems, created a story arc, divvied up work and ran around in the woods with our canine companion, Willow.  We stared at the stars and imagined generations long vanished doing the same, we sang songs and danced, and we sat around fires as we pondered burning towns and lost battles.

Then on Monday I had the honour of being invited to tell at John Abbott College near Montreal.  One of the students asked an interesting question: what's your favourite part of storytelling, aside from the actual telling?

After spending a memorable few days chasing stories, it was easy enough to provide that as an answer.  It's always fun getting to know the structure of the tale you'll be telling and trying to remain true to its nature while adapting it to your particular style (or, in some cases, ignoring its nature completely.  Depends on the purpose of the show, really.)  It can take up to a hundred stories before finding one that resonates with the teller and demands to be told. 

For my recent Shenkman Centre Show, Beyond the Fields we Know, I had to find some science-fiction and fantasy stories.  Easy enough, right?  I mean, I write the stuff!  Alas.  I had lots of sci-fi stories in my repertoire, but they weren't quite hitting the mark for me.  I had to enlist Roomy's help to find another story, since she's an avid short story reader, and it took quite a few before I read one I knew I could tell.

Reciting poetry by the fire.  And my stripy socks.
There's this amazing flow of energy and words when you read one of those stories that you know you can tell well.  It hardly means that learning the story will be easy, but it will certainly be worthwhile and memorable, for both the teller and the listener.  Well, that's the hope, anyways.

So chasing story is an amazing part of storytelling.  It takes time and dedication to find the right story, but the magic created when telling them makes the efforts worthwhile.  After a few days of immersing ourselves in Boudicca's story, I can say without a doubt that the January 20th show will be completely kick-ass! 

And then I came home to deal with a tick.  Oh, yes.  But that's a post for another day.