I recently read a piece on Storyteller.net on the theme “My Most Challenging Tellings.” This motivated me to share a personal experience.
In November, 2001, I was invited to return to my hometown of Des Moines, Iowa, to present a series of storytelling programs -- to be sponsored by the Public Library of Des Moines and the State Historical Society of Iowa.
The sessions for the library system, held at various libraries throughout metro Des Moines, went very well. The audiences were large and very responsive. But the program scheduled at the large, new Historical Building in downtown Des Moines was indeed a challenge.
The building included a large auditorium. The Historical Society had distributed promotional news releases about my upcoming program. And since I had formerly been a broadcaster in Des Moines, I had no problem in lining up interviews in advance of the program. My host and I had no reason not to expect a large turnout, possibly filling the auditorium.
I arrived at the building about 45 minutes before the scheduled start time. My host took me to the auditorium and we tested the PA system. Everything worked fine and we were ready for the inflow of audience.
The program was scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning. When I re-entered the auditorium at about 9:55, there were two persons in that huge auditorium. I waited for 10 minutes, but no one else arrived. That was to be my total audience – two people.
I delivered the entire 50-minute program as though it was a full auditorium, hoping all the time that one person wouldn’t leave. Two people and my host – that was my audience.
As it turned out, it wasn’t so bad after all. The two people stayed after the program for quite a while discussing the art of storytelling with me and my host. One of the ladies in the audience suggested several stories that subsequently turned out to be very good and tellable. Sometimes the quality of audience is more important than its numbers.