A few years ago, a friend told me about a family gathering she had attended where three generations had the best time together. She said there was endless laughter and good cheer throughout the entire group.
But one little constellation of humanity really grabbed her attention. Four cousins, between the ages of twelve and fourteen, sat at the feet of one of the grandfathers. Spellbound by his story, she said they were “hanging on to his every word.”
I was fascinated. What in the world was he talking about? (Really now, how often do adolescents put down their smart phones and offer up their undivided attention to old (!) people?)
Apparently, my friend had the same question and admitted she had moved closer to eavesdrop. Grandpa’s topic? He was simply telling them about what high school had been like back in the early 1950s. But as my friend listened, she realized that the way he was presenting his experience was the key to capturing his young audience’s rapt attention.
With some stage experience under her belt, she recognized that both the content of his story and his delivery was flat out entertaining. The plot moved right along at a pleasant clip. His description was lively. He utilized short, well crafted sentences, unlike, as my friend noted, “Some geezers I know, who meander all over the planet and back again before ever reaching their point.”
She also noticed he used his body to tell the story. His gestures and facial expressions were animated, while his voice brought color into his story to build tension or add surprise.
This man knew how to tell a story! Those young girls learned a little history that day but more importantly, through his storytelling, they experienced and appreciated this grandfather’s life experience. What a wonderful experience for all four of them!
Storytelling has been around since the beginning of time. It has its place in every culture in the world. We humans connect, learn, and entertain through our stories. Yet many people feel they don’t have what it takes to be a good storyteller. With respect in my heart, I say that’s a bunch of hooey!
Your memories, and the stories you tell about them, can light up a child’s life, create positive connections with family and friends, be a bright spot at social gatherings, or even … entertain our community. (More on that in a minute.)
Vivid memories can be crafted into valuable life stories by simply learning some basic writing and delivery skills. Curious about how to polish your own stories? Please join me for my next OLLI class, Music … and the Stories of Our Lives. (It will run for three sessions, beginning October 26.)
We’ll use music and writing prompts to explore why certain memories make the best stories to share. Why music? Because melodies often lock experiences into our brains, weaving memories into a tapestry of people, places, things, and emotions. (To inspire ideas for your stories, writing prompts will be emailed to students a few weeks prior to the class.) We’ll also cover other elements of storytelling, including characters, setting, plot, pace, and voice.
Now, about sharing your stories with the community … that’s where Humboldt Light Opera Company’s Boomer + Troupe comes in! Co-founded by Carol Ryder (Artistic Director of HLOC) and I, the Troupe is a group of fun loving community members, each with varying degrees of performance experience. We range in age from 54 to 79! Partnering with OLLI, for two years running, our original productions about the Fifties and the Sixties have been enthusiastically received by sold out audiences.
And now, drum roll … it gives me great pleasure to announce that the Boomer+ Troupe’s next production (February 2018.) is already in its beginning phases.
This time we’re shifting course to explore the powerful part music plays in our lives and memories. The show promises to be an another lively, thoughtful, memory making production that resonates with both audience and cast members alike. (Please note that attending my OLLI class, Music … and the Stories of our Lives, is strongly recommended, though not required, for those interested in auditioning for The Music of Our Lives, November 11. Information on auditions will follow at a later date.)
So, whether you simply want to polish your writing skills, liven up your stories for your family’s next reunion, dazzle your grandkids, or find a community forum for your stories (hint, hint) join me for Music … and the Stories of Our Lives. You’ll learn the writing basics, meet some new people, and have some fun!