There are natural raconteurs born with the gift of gab, and then there are the tongue-tied; the play-by-players who overshare every tedious detail in real time; and the repeat offenders who say the same thing over and over ... and over. But Raven Narratives co-producers Sarah Syverson and Tom Yoder think even the mealiest of mouths can tell a good story – and they have tips to help.
“There is something to building up your storytelling muscles,” Syverson said. “We firmly, firmly believe everyone has a story to tell.”
The Raven Narratives is looking for the stories – and storytellers – for its latest shows, to be held next weekend in Durango and Cortez.
The Nov. 30 (Sunflower Theatre in Cortez) and Dec. 1 (Durango Arts Center) events mark the production’s second Story Slam – off-the-cuff tales on a single theme told by audience members whose names are drawn out of a Cracker Jack box.
“It’s totally random. It’s terrifying,” Yoder said. “There is a leap of courage to get up and tell people stories.”
Fitting for this time of year, the theme for the slam is “Family,” but they encourage participants to not be so literal.
Yoder said that despite the horrifying nature of telling a freestyle story to a group of strangers, once someone shows that vulnerability, other people are more inclined to do the same. It’s difficult to resist what is percolating inside them, Syverson said.
At the standard Raven Narrative events, Syverson and Yoder will offer suggestions to the participants before they take the stage. That advice can apply to anyone who wants to keep friends and family on the edge of their seats at holiday parties and around the dinner table.
To tell a story effectively, Syverson said practice is crucial, and in order to practice, people need to give themselves space. She compares it to ice skating for the first time – you shouldn’t expect to be perfect.
There are basic narrative concepts, such as having a beginning, middle and end, but beyond that, Yoder and Syverson encourage storytellers to really think about the details.
“People should think about the way we tell stories, the vividness. Think about the colors, smells, taste, touch,” Yoder said.
He adds that in order to be an engaging storyteller, people must be good listeners first. He said storytelling is not a solo effort, and listening helps us come up with creative questions that may spark inspiration for a tale.
There are some ground rules for Raven Narrative events that would be helpful for holiday conversation, too, which can be a little dicey if people dive into political subjects, Syverson said.
“No rants, no raves, and all told in the first person, and (stories) must be true,” Syverson said.