If you’re feeling rusty as a storyteller and sense the need for a little guidance and direction, I’d like to suggest you audition for a role in a local community-theater production. In the arena of storytelling, I am finding that the experience and training resident in stage work is directly transferable to our tellings.
I was recently cast in the supporting role of Col. Kenneth Penmark in a local production of the stage/movie thriller “Bad Seed.” It was not the role I auditioned for but I accepted it because I believed that whatever I was to learn from the director, I could apply to storytelling. I was not disappointed in the experiment.
I recall one evening’s rehearsal when the director was trying to draw from one of the other supporting cast members a character other than what he was presenting. He was playing an author/criminologist named Tasker. At one scene during the rehearsal, the director called out, “OK, stop for a minute.” She walked up to Tasker and said, “Let’s spend a minute and try to find this guy’s voice. I don’t think Tasker grew up in a well-to-do home, went to Harvard, received a degree in criminology, and then went on to write 75 novels. I see him as one who came up from the streets. Middle class working home. He probably got a job with the local newspaper as a copy-boy and worked his way up. Someone probably just saw that he had a talent for writing and gave him an opportunity to do a story. From then on, he was hooked. He didn’t learn criminology from college; he learned it from the streets. Play him that way.”
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