Once Upon A Time By Barry Mitchell
What does EVERYTHING at Disneyland and Disney World have in common? It is all based on a story. Every ride begins with a story and the ride tells the story. Every restaurant is based on a story. Take a close look and discover that Walt Disney was a passionate storyteller. The same is true of Steven Spielburg, George Lucas, and every other successful producer and director in Hollywood. It’s the stories of life that inspire us, touch our emotions, and change the story of our lives.
If storytelling is such a prominent part of family entertainment then it should be a part of our clowning and magical entertainment as well.
My personal story has included clowning, magic, acting, and motivational speaking. And then I discovered the power of storytelling. I don’t know the moment when it really clicked in my mind that storytelling is the most powerful communication medium available. But I do know I’m thankful I finally caught on. Since then I’ve sought to make storytelling a passion. However, my stories also include magic and often audience helpers. Therefore, I call it “performance storytelling.”
Since WCA was nice enough to ask me to share this information we’ll cover storytelling for entertainers in depth. Let’s get right to it with the elements of GREAT performance storytelling.
Performance storytelling is the art of making a good story great with elements of magic, drama, and audience interaction. We’ll use the word GREAT to describe the elements involved. G – Graspable point. Think back to the stories of your childhood. Do you remember the morals? I bet you do. A good story presents an easily understandable point that even the youngest children can grasp. If you’re telling stories from children’s books they are usually written that way. If you’re using some of my stories like the Mother of All Diamonds or King Eno, I’ve written them that way. And if you’re writing your own you’ll want to consider the point of the story as you write.
The unknown truth about great story composition is that it’s more difficult than most people realize. Anyone can tell as story and make a point. However, making the story simple enough for children to understand is the real work. It has been said that anyone can make something complicated but true genius makes it simple. This truth is evident concerning government. Let’s say you have an idea to feed the poor. So you go out and work in a soup kitchen. Genius idea. Turn that idea over to the government and suddenly there are hundreds of forms to fill out, an act of congress, civil rights concerns, language problems, and so on. In the end, no one really eats. I prefer the simple, don’t you?
Kid’s prefer the simple as well. R- Retains attention. A great story is interesting enough and presented well enough to hold the audience’s attention. There are only two possible problems if a story isn’t holding the audience’s attention. 1. It’s not a good story or 2. You’re not telling it well. Sadly, the second is usually the case. A good story doesn’t change but the way we tell it, with enthusiasm, showmanship, and confidence, has everything to do with the final result.
When you watch a remake of an old movie take note of how the new storytellers, director, writer, editor, told the story. The George Clooney movie, Ocean’s Eleven, comes to mind. It is a remake of a Frank Sinatra version. I like both movies but there are drastic differences. The same is true of you and I. I’ve been in this business for a long, long, time and my stories are used by performers around the world. And everyone of us tell them differently.
Take an honest look at the audience response of your storytelling. If it’s not working it’s either the story or you. Fix it.
That’s it for this issue. In coming issues we’ll cover the E, A, and T of our GREAT acronym. We’ll also be learning about how to write a good story, mixing magic with stories, and story examples. Until the next Once Upon A Time . . .