The Bay Area Storytelling Festival

26 May

I went to my first storytelling festival last weekend at Kennedy Grove Regional Park. It was a good festival to for my first. The Bay Area Storytelling Festival has been going on for 25 years, so they’re well established. They featured a diverse line-up with some heavy-hitters in the storytelling community. My favorite tellers were Diane Ferlatte and Ben Haggarty (from the UK).  Both superb. Willy Claflin and Connie Regan-Blake came in a close second place.

I was especially excited to see Ben because I had wanted to take a class from him while in London. Unfortunately, I was kicked out of the country before I had the chance. On Friday, he did an impressive 2-hour telling of Frankenstein. The talk he gave afterwords was even more exciting, as he laid out his feelings about the craft. I scribbled notes furiously.

The Monday after the festival, I awoke, woozy, a bit story drunk, and with this thought: Yes. I want to be a storyteller.


Star Trek vs. Monty Python

20 May

Re-edit, tell a new story.

Well done, sir, well done.

Words, Words, Words: Good Quotes on…Storytelling

20 May

“Speak as though you are under the power of the ultimate spirit in the universe, the ultimate mind, the ultimate force force…And speak to these people as though they represent the ultimate…We are singing in a chorus of our voices.  So listen with your entire being to these people.”

Brother Blue, Storyteller

Let’s Yourself Go and Your Mime Will Follow

18 May

I spent my weekend moving in a Neoclassical Mime intensive taught by James Donlon of the Flying Actors Studio in San Francisco. It was wonderful and comprehensively kicked my butt, putting the ‘intense’ back in intensive. That muscles-I-didn’t-know-I-had kind of sore.

The class gave me a large number of exercises in fixed point work, isolation, neutrality, energy, and the dynamics of creating physical work for the stage that went above and beyond conventional stereotypes about mime. Additionally, I learned a lot about myself, my strengths and weakness. A quick list:


  • Energy: I have lots of it (p’duh). This wasn’t surprising but I continue to learn how it differentiates me from others.
  • Clarity: I have the the ability to make my movement clear and precise and to tell a story.
  • Rapport: I’m excellent at matching and sharing energy with those I’m working with.


  • Economy: I make things too complicated and unnecessary. I often struggle to get to the essential.
  • Levels: Related to my top strength, I tend to default to full-tilt. I need greater dynamics and especially need to remember to start out low, so I have somewhere to go.
  • Neutrality: What I think of as body neutral is not. I lower my chin and tend to take a power stance when standing, and move my arms unnecessarily when walking.

I’m excited because I can already see how this is going to apply to my solo performance and storytelling work. The class was reasonably priced (worked out to about $11/hour) and a great survey of techniques and concepts.  Recommend it in a heart beat if your interested in performance work.


Writing Mindfully or Writing Entranced?

16 May

I do an hour of writing practice each day, following these guidelines.

One of my goals of late has been to focus on mindfulness while writing. Simple, in theory: Make writing into a meditative practice that builds awareness. At the end of it, I feel clear-headed, more stable and focused, a clarity that shows up in my writing. But I’m not sure it results in my best writing.

Today, I wrote a passage about my first kiss. I was totally lost in it. The memories flashed up in front of my eyes one after the other, and I grasped onto what I could, pulling them down from the mental ether, and stitching them to page with the black thread of letters. It was easily one of the more evocative pieces I’ve written, recently.

In your opinion: Does writing require an altered state of mind, a writing trance? Or is getting clear mentally the best way to get your thoughts out on to the page?

Words, Words, Words: Good Quotes on…Story Structure

14 May

“In the first act set forth the case. In the second, weave together the events, in such ways that until the middle of the third act one may hardly guess the outcome. Always trick expectancy.”

–Lope de Vega, 17th-century playwright

This quote is taken from an excellent post from the always-excellent blog “Observations on Film Art” from Kristin Thompson & David Bordwell. This post debunks the three-act structure as law and gives some historical context. SHOCKING REVELATION: Aristotle, often quoted by screenwriting gurus, doesn’t talk about three acts. Horace did, but he’s a bit less glamorous, right?

Practicing, Patience

12 May

Working on the one-person show was a slog through waist-high mud today. I was enervated and uninspired. But the goals I set got done: the third draft (or tenth, depending on how you look at it) was printed, and  a complete walk-thru recorded, even though it felt like I sleepwalked through the last third. Success never felt so blah.

But it’s a good reminder that not every day is ripe with discovery and excitement. My goal is to explore storytelling and also to explore my process. This takes time. And patience. I’ve been doing this kind of thing long enough to know you have days, weeks even, where you swim against the tide until you stop, exhausted, only to realize the waters shallow enough for you to walk the rest of the way there easily.

So here’s to today.  Sh*t day that it was, I’m still one step closer.