I didnt go to school to become a storyteller. In fact, I never even heard of storytelling being a job! I graduated college in 1986, with a BA in Writing, thinking I would write books one day after pursuing a career as an actress in NYC. While going on cattle calls and trying to land an acting job, I had to make some money and got a job teaching biblical stories in a religious school. One day, the principal came into my classroom furious.
" There is a traffic jam in the parking lot because these kids arent out there. Didnt you hear the bell?"
I apologized. "Hey kids," I called out, "why didnt you tell me the bell rang?"
"Wait, just tell us what happens!Ē Thats when the principalís ears perked up. She wanted to know what I was doing that was so engaging. So, she came to my next class. She watched how I got the kids to play the parts of the characters in the story spontaneously. ďGod said to AbrahamÖĒ and the kid I chose as God repeated what I said to the kid chosen to be Abraham. After school, the principal told me that I could make a business out of it.
"Out of what?" I asked.
"The way you tell the stories. You make storytelling an active experience,Ē she replied.
Well, she did a mailing to her colleagues recommending me. I started to book shows of Old Testament stories for synagogues and churches. As money came in, I had no idea how to document what I was earning. A degree from an ivy league school didnít give me any background on accounting, so back to a community college I went.
Shortly after that, I realized that I didnít want to limit myself to biblical stories. And, once again, my college education didnít leave me with marketing tools. So, I returned to a local college and developed a brochure that launched my storytelling business, and lasted me years.
I still love it. What do I love about it? I know that my stories leave an impact on the listener, whether through the message, the personal participation, and/or the simple act of listening. Anybody can be a star; if you are in a wheel chair, or have no verbal skills, or incredibly shy and say nothingÖ.Thatís OK, I make it work. Iíve gotten very verbal participants who try to change the direction of the story, and I just redirect the energy. That is what makes each story fresh and exciting, even if you just saw the show with another group.
So, Iím not the Broadway star that my Dad wished for me, but I perform all the time, just in a different way. I make my own schedule, which as a Mom, made putting my kids first and working very possible. I used to drive to a show with my infant, nurse before and after the show, while the school nurse or a PTA mom watched her during the performance.
My storytelling audiences broadened, as I started doing programs for seniors, singles, teens, and adult groups.
Ironically, almost 10 years ago, I got tongue cancer. Fortunately, through great surgeons, Iím still articulate and continue to tell. However, my stories have taken a turn toward ones that inspire us to find the opportunity in adversity.
I know that I make a difference in others lives through my stories. Storytelling makes my life meaningful in a big way.