So almost a year ago, I’m listening to the WBAI – my local Pacifica station or as the better-half refers to it – Commie Radio. It’s The Next Hour, a Sunday arts show, and there are these two men talking about their theater piece which is called Two Men Talking . These two men who had met in a private Jewish day school in South Africa when they were twelve, tell stories about their evolving friendship and their lives. The show though it always features certain core stories is always different. I liked what I was hearing. Plus it was, as it often is on BAI, a pledge drive and for $200, you could get two tickets to the show and one admission to their all day storytelling workshop and learn a little about how to do what they do.
I pay my $200. Go to see the show which the better-half and I both found very moving although to say much more would be to spoil it. Then came the workshop.
It was a beautiful Sunday morning, sunny, the sky was clear and it wasn’t too hot. I got to the building – a large studio complex in Greenwich Village where there was the smell of smoke and several entrances closed due to a fire that morning. The gathering crowd, the sense of “What the hell is going on?”, the weather, and the lower Manhattan locale all combined to remind me of that thing that happened a few years ago…. And if you were in the City when it did, you know what I’m talking about.
But we did manage to find our way to a spacious studio with a rooftop patio that with river views. The workshop was spectacular. Filled with really good storytellers, but the technique was challenging. Tell what happened. Sounds simple but when that means you can’t rely on your shtick, you can’t give an opinion or even tell how you felt, it’s tough. But the result was stories that flowed like conversation and allowed the listener to have his or her own experience. It reminded me of something I’d heard once about acting. It doesn’t matter if you can cry on a stage. The point is to make the audience cry.
I signed up for the 4-week advanced series. By the end, I felt like I had a handle on it and a few good memoir stories to tell and write. Then I got THE CALL. The two men were going back on WBAI and this time they were bringing some of their storytellers and I was invited. And so I got to tell a story on the radio. (I’ll upload it when I can find it and figure out how to do it. In the meantime, go here to see a written version.) All of the storytellers were radio virgins, we were sitting in a circle and it felt intimate and safe like the workshop.
After my story, Janet Coleman the host, asked Murry Nossel one of the Two Men, “How could she have screwed that up?”
Murray replied, “She could have told us how she felt.”
And that was the whole point of telling “what happened”. It’s a bit like saying “trust the reader” if you’re a fiction writer. If you tell how YOU felt, than you are telling the listener how to feel instead of allowing them to have their own feelings.
A couple of months later, I hear from Jerome Deroy who runs the business end of the workshops. He tells me that they are going to film some storytellers for the website and I’m again invited. I chose a more upbeat one than the one I’d told on the radio. It’s more upbeat than the radio story and a good one for aspiring writers and other aspirants to hear. Check it out!