12/03/2008

Collaborative Storytelling

As Swil Kanim has been known to say a time or two...

A looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong time ago...

...there was a Teller who decided she wanted to focus on her writing, to commit herself so fully to her art that she would reduce her life to three things only - writing, family, and work.

Now this Teller had heard tales that if you do what you love, the money would follow, and she dreamed that once she started her MFA, the need for a bread job would fall away. She knew that focusing on school would mean giving up things like TV watching, leisurely weekends with the family, and other 'smaller' stuff. She figured Telling fell into that 'smaller' stuff category too, so hung up her Teller vest (just for a couple of years) and set to reading and writing.

For six months, she tried to balance the Three, compromising family and work where she could to carve out time for writing, new writing, old writing, any writing, and lots of reading. At first it seemed to all come together...then work needed more and family needed more, and the Teller realized that she liked the stability her bread job offered and liked spending leisurely weekends with her family and that when these two other things didn't quite happen, not matter how much time she carved out for writing, the writing didn't happen. Coursework deadlines loomed and there was nothing on the screen. Or on the page. Or in the brain.

So, like any good Teller, she shook her bag of tales and spread them out on her bed, looking for clues to what ailed her. Because stories are medicine too. And she picked up the time for walking downtown and she picked up the time to bring work home to finish and she picked up time for, of all things, Telling.

Now this Teller is shy. Uncertain, really, and often only Tells when asked. So she wasn't expecting to Tell that First Friday in November - she'd gone to support another Teller breaking new ground with original work. But then One Crazy Raven came hopping over for a hug and asked. "Have you got a story tonight?" And she said "Yes."

Alitaptap is the housefly who becomes the firefly, and that night the Teller remembered the part of her story she'd set aside, the part she realized she needed in order to /be/ a writer. She lived a dream, a story told in shadows of a moment in the light, sharing the stage with two of her heroes. The moment had nothing and everything to do with writing, and like the Skyking, the Teller plucked a star from the sky and lit up the night, remembering what Telling meant to her.

So the Teller and the Telling came back, both on the stage and in gaming. She carved a new path and wonder of wonders, things shifted and moved into familiar but well-supported spaces where work and family and writing and Telling could all exist together.

The rest became toilet paper

(and if you didn't get that last, you've gotta see Swil Kanim tell his Tree Story)

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Collaborative Storytelling

It's what we do everyday, the thing we live and experience without knowing it. We build stories with others at work, at home, at school, at play, even shopping. We tell ourselves stories, imagine other's stories, witness stories in progress, help stories move in new directions, hopefully better ones.

It's what good Tellers do when they perform together - That First Friday with Gene, we told stories about being different and celebrating our differences. We were still high from Obama's win and believed (still believe) that Yes We Can make change, change for the good, while knowing it will take work. Lots of work.

Two Friday's later at the Fireside doing our Tellebration Gig, we mixed personal stories with old tales, some true folktales, some true original stories. Didn't matter - with the drums and the dancing and the wild gestures - we were all making stories, drinking stories to make our lives richer and remind us what forgiveness and courage can do.

It's what on-line Role-Players do, gaming on MUSHs and MU's, creating and living as characters in made up worlds, using pixels and their imaginations to advance themes and tell stories to one another. We bring out the best in each other while we play and when we play well, the story grows and shifts as if there were only one narrator. We're all heroes and hero-makers.

The coolest, bestest thing about Telling these ways is that there's no rehearsal, no script, no set way that things have to be done. You know a story, you know a character, you gauge the audience, you assess your strength, you reach for what you think you need from the story (which invariably is the thing the audience needs from the story) and you go.

You unreel it, slowly at first, building momentum, getting feedback from the listeners, shifting the story, dropping a new gag here, covering a fumble there, and it comes out - maybe not perfect - but exactly what it needs to be. That's magic touching reality. Nothing more, nothing less.

Collaborative Storytelling

What story are you telling yourself today? Does it serve you or make you suffer? Does is bring the best out in others or oppress them? What story are you being told today? How can you change that story for the better, create the changes you dream, find the support you need? What story are you making with others? What theme are you all bringing forward, reinforcing, growing, bringing to light?

As Grandmother of One Crazy Raven once said -

Your life is a story, make it a good one.

Next: The Miraculous Journey of BunBun the Bunny

2 comments:

Karen Pierce Gonzalez said...

Rebecca,
I really enjoyed this posting.
Folktales come to life when they take on personal (individual) relevance and what better way to do that than through collaboration!
Finding ways to involve listeners in the process is critical.
I encourage people to find their own folktales; delve into their own folktale closets for motifs that are shared by all.
The true test of any folktale is it's ability to speak to one and all!
Best, Karen
www.folkheartpress.com
folkheartpress.blogspot.com

Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor said...

Thanks for dropping by, Karen!

I've linked you to my blog and I'm excited that new folks are visiting!