Why I Went Oral

Warren McPherson Storytelling Blog 2 Comments

Warren McPherson

Warren McPherson | Photo Credit: O’Dubhda

Any idiot can tell a story. I know. I have been to many a party or function and had an idiot tell me a story. And, sure, being an idiot isn’t always their fault; I think most everyone is an idiot. But, just because I think you’re an idiot doesn’t mean you have to tell a crappy story.

On the flip side, some of the people I respect the most in this world will tell a crappy story once or twice. Well, at least once. (After that initial crappy story I cease to respect them, so there is never a twice or thrice.)

I guess what I am trying to say is I am overly critical and judgmental. And, if you’re going to tell a story—be you an idiot or not—please make sure you are adding something of value to our lives. Mine, yours, and anyone else that may be listening. Tell us something that makes us feel. Or think. Or emote.

In this Twitter filled world overflowing with hardly riveting tales of coffee fetching or people seeing, and Facebook pages adorned with barely laudable photographs of people doing absolutely nothing of importance, our storytelling abilities are dying; we have forgotten the power words can give us. Our stories are too much information, not enough enrichment.

Enter, Portland Story Theater.

Whether you take in one of their shows or participate in a workshop, you will have an enriching experience. The stories being told are real stories, from real people. There is nothing fake. There is no agenda. It is simply an opportunity to stop and put all other things aside, and to remember that people you don’t know have things happen in their lives just like you do. People have rough times, just like you do. People have flaws, just like you do. People have loss, just like you do. People think everyone else is an idiot, JUST LIKE YOU DO!

It is a valuable reminder that the things that make us alike are much more copious than the things that make us different. It is a human connection made through the art of storytelling.

I fancy myself a writer. Well…I am someone that writes. Okay, on several occasions I have used words on paper to tell a story. I took the workshop because I wanted to feel what it was like to tell a story. As I write that last sentence I realize how ridiculous it sounds. I have told stories before; in small gatherings; on paper; while intoxicated. But, getting up in front of a captive audience and turning your thoughts and words into instant matter is something completely different.

A writer can hide behind his or her words. You might make appearances, maybe do a reading or two at a bookstore, but for the most part when someone reads your work you are out of sight, out of mind. So, if you offend a large group of people—say you call everyone idiots—you needn’t feel any shame because you don’t have to look any of the idiots in the eye. You are safe back in your office, sitting in front of your computer. Or, maybe at Starbucks sitting in front of your laptop. (In which case *you* are the idiot.)

But when you tell a story there is no hiding from the words. You are up there and the story you tell is immediate. The voice the audience hears is yours. The face they see is not some glamour-shot on the back of the book sleeve. It is you, and it might be a bad hair day. This whole scenario can be scary, but it has its perks. The story will feel more associated with you. You are in sight, in mind and that forces you to be honest, forthcoming and brave. These are elements I am constantly trying to complement my writing with.

There is no editing when you tell a story. The words that come out of your mouth, although perhaps reworked and rehearsed dozens of times before hand, will never be uttered the same way again. It is live, alive and unique.

When I tell a story on paper it is somehow caged; it is a still photo of an idea. Don’t get me wrong, I love photography. But, when I tell my story to an audience it is as if my idea has been released, into the wild, to do…whatever things in the wild do. Disappear forever. Get eaten by a bigger, better story. Find another story it likes and procreate. Who knows what! I don’t control the thing once it is out there. The moment it leaves my lips it ceases to be mine.

I still love putting pen to paper; ensnaring the wild beast and making it available for viewings at any time. But I understand now why some people like to go on a safari, instead of visiting their local zoo.

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