Friday, February 17, 2006

The old question: what to call it

The love story concert brings up the old question: if I called my performances for adults something other than storytelling, would people actually come? The term "storytelling" makes the general public assume it will be a) boring or b) for children or c) not a sophisticated artform and therefore kind of embarrassing to watch or d) too homespun--maybe they think it will be somebody in a gingham dress sitting on a rocking chair, talking in a vaguely hillbilly style. In case you wondered, I don't even vaguely resemble this last one.

I'm happy that I had an audience. There were even some folks I didn't know. Around 35 people showed up on a weeknight in a town where there's often too much going on. Still, there was a great piece in the newspaper on Sunday, I was listed in calendars in other papers, I sent e-mails to my mailing list, I put signs up all over town, and I asked my friends to tell their friends. It seemed as if I'd have a bigger crowd. The people who came were very positive about the experience, so I don't think it's a matter of my delivery. The term "storytelling" just doesn't sound very compelling.

This morning I was talking with a friend about this. She was at the performance and has heard me in many venues over the years. She's a great supporter. We decided that if I called it something else, maybe people would attend. Monologist? Gack! Even though my second cousin Helen Howe called herself this, I can't stomach it. Public speaker? Even worse, sounds like I'm giving a lecture on some embarrassing physical problem. Spoken word artist? Nah. Performance artist? I don't think so.

I think I'll try doing my show Blood, guts, spies and fat naked ladies in the fall, and I'll bill it as a one-woman show.

I'll let you know how it works.


Anonymous said...

You could also call yourself a troubador, or maybe, bill yourself as TroubaDora?


Gwyn said...

I'm sure your new title will be a smash hit!

Seriously, as a member of the Northlands Storytelling Network board, we've begun to try and tackle this issue and it's a huge challenge. Probably why National just gave up trying after some time.

PriscillaHowe said...

If I call myself a troubadour, I think I have to do lyric poetry and possibly play a lute. I'm not so sure about that.

I'm not sure I'll solve this, ever. Maybe I'll just give myself a new job title every few months.

Tim said...

In the San Francisco Bay Area, we use the term "Solo Performance."

Albeit, we share the term with performance artists, monologuists, writer-actors who perform one-person shows with dozens of characters and voices, and the occasional magician, stand up comic, belly dancer, juggler, travel writer, musician, and poet who go outside the box of their own label and try to combine their art form with a personal or dramatic story.

But it brings people in.

I think "one-woman show" will work for you. Those who know you as a storyteller will still expect you to tell stories, and the label may bring in theatregoers who want to come see a show. I don't think Fat Naked Ladies will disappoint them in that respect; you are continuing a long tradition of solo theatre, from the Barrymores to Sarah Jones (currently on Broadway).