Friday, February 08, 2008

The Story Is True

That's the book I'm loving at the moment, The Story is True by Bruce Jackson. Here's what he says in his introduction:
The Story Is True is about making and experiencing stories as something people do, as one of our basic social acts. It's about how stories work, how we use them, how they move about, how they change, how they change us. It is about stories we tell friends, family and strangers, and it is about stories made for us at a distance, such as movies, television programs, newspapers and books. It is about when it is appropriate to tell what kinds of stories, and when it is permissible to tell stories that don't make sense, stories that are crazy or incoherent or disconnected...

One of the reasons I'm enjoying this book so much is that Jackson uses examples from his own and others' lives--that is, stories. Though my work is usually concerned with "stories made for us at a distance," I'm fascinated also by the weird stuff we all tell each other.

Back to performance storytelling for a moment. In the beginning of Chapter 8, Jackson quotes John Barth in On with the Story: Stories. Here's the first part of that quote:
[I]t's in a story's Ending that its author pays (or fails to pay) his narrative/dramatic bills. Through Beginning and Middle the writer's credit is good so long as we're entertained enough to keep turning the pages. But when the story's action has built to its climax and started down the steep and slippery slope of denouement, every line counts, every word, and ever more so as we approach the final words...
This hit home. I've been working on Queen Berta and King Pippin, as I've got the World Premiere (yeah, I know how ridiculous that sounds, but I like it) next Friday. Two nights ago I told it to my friend Mianne, in hopes that it had smoothed out since the last run through. It has. She liked it.

The story fairly barrels along. I was aware the other night of how quickly I told the last part of it. The above quote reminds me to take a little more care at the end. Because I know what happens, I tend to rush. It's important to allow the audience to savor the story, let them enjoy the satisfying ending.

When I tell a story I take the listeners out on a journey. Unless there's a very good reason, I bring them home (yes, there are a few instances where we stay out in the forest, but it's on purpose). That's the piece John Barth is talking about, I think. If I do it right, the audience is pleased with the story, and so am I.

P.S. If you're near Lawrence, KS on Friday Feb. 15, come on down to the Lawrence Visitor's Bureau/Union Pacific Depot at the corner of Locust and N. 2nd (across from Johnny's Tavern, in case you want good pizza and a beer before the show) at 8 p.m. Queen Berta and King Pippin is for grownups and older kids (PG-9). The cost for this Post-Valentine's Day show? I'll pass the hat for a love offering, of course!

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