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Collaborations with Theatres

March 2007            

by Kate Dudding

 

At the 2006 Sharing the Fire, the storytelling conference presented by the League for the Advancement of New England Storytelling, Jo Radner gave an excellent keynote challenging us to come up with ways to raise storytelling to the same level as music and theatre.

Her keynote got me thinking.  For a number of years, I've thought that converting theatre audiences to storytelling audiences should be a pretty easy thing to do.   Theatre and storytelling are closely related art forms. In a subsequent ‘conversation’ on the storytell listserv (a listserv with over 500 English speaking storytellers around the world), the following marketing slogan was developed:

 

If you love the theatre, you’ll love storytelling. 

Storytelling combines the intensity of a play by a solo performer with

the intimacy of a one-on-one conversation.

 

I wondered if storytelling could become part of the programming at theatres.  There should be a number of ways for storytelling and theatre organizations to collaborate.  So I asked the members of the National Storytelling Network (NSN) Producers and Organizers (PRO) Special Interest Group (SIG), via our listserv, the following questions:

1. Have any storytelling groups established a relationship with theatre companies which others can use as an example when contacting their local theatre companies?

2. Do any of you have experience with theatre companies and know how to sell this concept for storytelling in theatres which will serve their existing theatre audience?

 

I received some wonderful examples of collaboration including:

 

 

I also found a newspaper article about such a collaboration.  Here is information about these collaborations:

 

·        Barbican Centre, London, UK, and The Crick Crack Club

The Feasting in the House of Stories series finished its tenth season with 13 days of storytelling (3 programs each offered 4 times, plus a gala performance).  For the last three seasons, the performances have been sold out.  This series was started by the Barbican’s head of education, Jillian Barker: “The Barbican prides itself in having all the arts under one roof and the gap in the storytelling tradition stood out.  It seemed sensible to respond to the need for a professional venue.”   

entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,14929-2193450,00.html .

See Appendix A for more information.

 

·        National Arts Centre, Ottawa, CA, and Ottawa Storytellers

In their sixth season at the community black box theatre, the Ottawa Storytellers are presenting seven evenings of storytelling (December - June.)  This series benefits through National Arts Centre’s (NAC’s) promotion, the professional tech staff at NAC, and the fact that the community black box theatre is a popular venue – a draw in itself. Artistic Director Jan Andrews says, “We function like a mini-rep company and have workshops to help us improve.”

www.ottawastorytellers.ca/concerts.htm, www.nac-cna.ca/en/communityprogramming/index.html

See Appendix B for more information.

 

·        Limelight Theatre, St. Augustine, FL, and Tale Tellers of St. Augustine

After eight years with 5 performances per year, the collaboration Theater of the Mind: Storytelling at the Limelight Theatre is still going strong.  “It is definitely a win-win situation:  People who come to plays see and hear information about storytelling, and visa versa.”  

www.taletellers.org .

See Appendix C for more information.

 

·        Stratford Festival of Canada, Stratford, Ontario, CA, and Mary-Eileen McClear

The goal of the education department was to get more families to attend plays, by enhancing families’ experiences and preparing them before attending a play.  Mary-Eileen told the folk tales which were the sources of the play, or retold the play’s themes, or told stories which reflected on the play.  An example of the last type was telling Jewish stories in preparation for seeing “Fiddler on the Roof.” Despite having a good sized appreciative audience (mostly adults) at each storytelling event over the five year run, the goal of getting more families to attend the plays was not achieved, and the series was canceled.

See Appendix L for more information.

 

·        Jewel Box Theatre, Poulsbo, WA, and Bards by the Bay

An amateur company with a professional attitude, doing "home grown theatre for the entire world," the Jewel Box Theatre presents a year round six play mainstage season, a six event children's season, improv comedy with "What Happens Next?", storytelling with "Bards by the Bay",and "Writers'Haven" poetry Sundays. Still to be added is a monthly music series.

www.jewelboxpoulsbo.org/bardsbythebay.htm .

See Appendix D for more information.

 

·        Willow Theatre, Boca Raton, FL, and South Florida Storytelling Project

Starting in November 2005, Willow Theatre at Sugar Sand Park in Boca Raton presented a successful one-of-a-kind luncheon theater series, co-sponsored by the South Florida Storytelling Project at Florida Atlantic University and fine area restaurants.  A buffet style lunch was served in the Maple Room, where patrons will sample delicious cuisine from each culture in the series. Performance  followed in the Willow Theatre.

www.fau.edu/storytelling/events.htm

See Appendix E for more information.

 

·        Mercury Theatre, St. Marys, Ontario

The Mercury Theatre opened about 2 years ago, right after the first festival in St. Marys. The theatre owner is very selective about who uses his space- he does not rent it out, but collaborates with other producers if he is interested and is confident the quality is up to his standards.  However, he was persuaded to try a storytelling event for adults and was impressed.  A second storytelling concert has occurred and others are planned.

See Appendix F for more information.

 

·        Caldwell Theatre, Boca Raton, FL, and South Florida Storytelling Project

These two organizations are planning a series of three storytelling concerts for adults in early 2007.

See Appendix G for more information.

 

South Florida Storytelling Project also sponsors monthly Story Slams at restaurants -- see  www.fau.edu/storytelling/presents.htm .

 

·        Powerstories Theater, Tampa, FL and Fran Powers

The story begins when Powerstories Theatre was born in June 1998 as Fran Powers crossed the Wyoming border on a cross country bike trip. The idea took root when she returned to Tampa and notified women of an audition opportunity. She simply asked “Do you have a story to tell?” and women from four counties came to her small studio to learn more. Eight local women, ages 30 to 70, with little to no acting background were selected to perform for the general public. An original script “Let the Stories Move You” with original music was written to link all stories into a cohesive and inspirational theatre piece. Powerstories Theatre debuted in November 2000 at the Friday Morning Musicale in Tampa, Florida. By August 2001 they performed at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center to sold out audiences and continued performing locally until January 2003. In March 2003, Powerstories Theatre of Tampa Bay, Inc. became a non-profit agency with the mission of “staging true stories of women and girls to open minds and hearts.”  A partnership agreement was formed with TUMC’s The New Place allowing Powerstories Theatre of Tampa Bay, Inc. to be one of their resident theatre troupes giving Powerstories Theatre  a “home” to rehearse and perform the girl’s projects. 

www.powerstories.com/

See Appendix H for more information.

 

·        Jungle Theatre, Minneapolis, MN and Loren Niemi

From 1992-1998, Loren Niemi’s Two Chairs Telling productions used the theatre’s facility, marketing, box office, and the theater's stage and  box office personnel.  In effect, Loren was an independent producer who had a "use" agreement with the Jungle in which they acted as the fiscal agent for the grant funding. Loren selected the performers and set the performance dates with the jungle based on their season. TCT used whatever set was in place at the time and Loren would often try to match tellers or themes with the sets.  This successful collaboration ended when Loren left the Twin Cities and the theatre reorganized its programming schedule and producer relationships.

See Appendix I for more information.

 

Ruth Stotter reported on two series that she produced independently, with great effort on her part, in northern California.  One, “Mill Valley Storytelling Evenings,” only had storytellers as audience members and was a financial disaster.  See Appendix J for more information.  The other, “WIVES: The Six Queens of Henry VIII,” attracted good sized audiences during the week run.  While Ruth had wanted to continue, the cast members had too many scheduling programs.  See Appendix K for more information.

 

The key to creating each collaboration has been establishing a relationship with the theatre’s artistic director and determining how storytelling can help accomplish the theatre company’s goals.

 

 

Next Steps

Interested members of the PRO SIG met at the 2006 NSN Conference to see what the PRO SIG can do to promote storytelling and theatre collaborations across the country. Several ideas emerged at this meeting:

 

1.       Find out the theatre’s mission before you approach anyone about a collaboration with storytelling. Focus all your proposals about collaboration to match the theatre’s mission.

2.       During discussions, use the theatre language as part of building a bridge from the theatre person’s prior experience and your proposed event(s).  A storytelling production with a single storytelling in a theatre is referred to as a one person show or a solo performance.

3.       Theatre audiences expect one overall experience.  A storytelling olio, with many tellers sharing unrelated stories, generally would not fit their expectations of an evening at a theatre.

 

 

As a result of this informative but brief discussion, as part of the 2007 NSN Conference in St. Louis, Missouri, on July 12, 2007, the following all day workshop will be offered:

 

 

Transforming Sibling Rivalry or What Theater and Storytelling Can Offer Each Other and Our Audience

 

What are successful alternatives to the Storytelling Festival model that has dominated the American storytelling revival?  How can producers craft an audience’s journey through an event as a storyteller crafts a journey through a story?

 

Come take a hands-on look at what an audience wants and expects from performance and what makes for successful theater-based collaborations.  We will balance frank discussions of what works and what doesn't with a checklist of skills and vision needed to develop and manage successful events.  Central to the experience: participants will inventory their organizational and geographic strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats; then develop a blueprint for building relationships, partnerships and audience.

 

Presenters:

Joel Bassin, PhD (Assistant Professor of Theater, Hunter College/CUNY, New York, Consulting Manager for The Wooster Group ensemble theater)

 

Nancy Donoval, MFA/Theater (Storyteller, Producer, Story Coach)

 

Loren Niemi (Storyteller, Producer, Cultural Commentator)

 

Megan Wells, MFA/Theater (Storyteller, Actress, Illinois Storytelling Inc. Board President)  

 

If you want to be part of this effort, please join us in St. Louis or contact Loren Niemi (Niemistory@aol.com) or me.

 

Kate Dudding

kate@katedudding.com

 


Appendix A

Storyteller and/or Storytelling Group

Ben Haggarty, founding member of Company of Storytellers and president of the Crick Crack Club

Theatre and contact person

Barbican Centre, London, England.  Jillian Barker, head of education

Name of Series

Feasting in the House of Stories

Extent of Collaboration:                   part of theatre programming or storytelling just using the facility

Storytelling is fully integrated into the theatre's programming EXCEPT that it's listed under education, and not listed on the web site explicitly as storytelling, while theatre, art, dance, film, and music are.  Listed as one of the Education's festivals and seasons

When Series Started

1997

How Series Started

“The Barbican prides itself in having all the arts under one roof and the gap in the storytelling tradition stood out,” Jillian Barker, the Barbican’s head of education, says. “It seemed sensible to respond to the need for a professional venue.”

Number of Performances per Year

13 days of storytelling with 3 different programs, each offered 4 times, plus one gala performance

Programs This Year (or one year)

The Bedchambers of the Goddess

 

With Nick Hennessey and Xanthe Gresham

 

 

 

The Dynamics of Love

 

With Jan Blake, Ben Haggarty, Pamela Marre, TUUP and Chirine El Ansary

 

 

 

The Rich Sounds of Stories

 

With Hugh Lupton, Sally Pomme Clayton and musicians, Janie Armour and Chris Wood

 

 

 

The Tales They Tell (gala performance)

 

With Hugh Lupton, Daniel Morden, Jan Blake, Chirine El Ansary, Pamela Marre, Ben Haggarty and music from Hassan Erraji

 

 

 

The Role of Traditional Storytelling in Contemporary Society

 

Pre Show Debate with Crick Crack Club Artistic Co-Ordinator, Ben Haggarty, and guests

Average Audience Size

 

Age Group(s) of Audience

Initially family and schools groups, now for ages 12 and up

Cost of Tickets:

£9 ($16.73)

When Series Ended

continuing

Why Series Ended

continuing

Successful Parts of Collaboration (and sound bites)

Last three three seasons of performance storytelling have each sold out

 

“Theatre requires spectators, storytelling requires an audience,” Ben Haggarty says.

 

Scottish Arts Council's lottery fund has contributed £1.3 million to the new Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh

Lessons Learned

 

Problems

People have so many preconceived ideas about storytelling — that it’s reading aloud, that it’s for children, that it’s done by hippies.

 

As a specific art form, storytelling is not funded by the English Arts Council

 

 

News Articles

entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,14929-2193450,00.html

 

 

Web Sites

www.crickcrackclub.com

 

 

Appendix B

Storyteller and/or Storytelling Group: Jan Andrews, Artistic Director of Ottawa Storytellers Fourth Stage series

Founded in 1983, Ottawa Storytellers exists to promote and develop the oral tradition of storytelling within the National Capital Region and beyond. The group has earned a reputation for excellence and artistic daring, and its work is known nation-wide. Personal stories, folktales, literary tales and epics are all part of the repertoire.

 

The 2006-2007 season is Jan’s last year as artistic director.  She wants to concentrate on telling her own stories.  Jan was the first coordinator of Storytellers of Canada/Conteurs du Canada .

Theatre and contact person: National Arts Centre, Ottawa, CA,

 

Name of Series: Ottawa Storytellers on the Fourth Stage.  The Fourth Stage is used for “community programming.”  It’s a black box theatre with café style seating for 120 and professional sound and light.  These events take place on seven Thursday evenings in the months of December through June of each year.

Each evening includes four to six stories, with the stories varying in length from 5 to 20 minutes or more. Including the intermission each session lasts about one and a half to two hours.

 

Extent of Collaboration: Fully integrated now – tickets are sold on NAC’s web site or via their box office, complete description on NAC’s web site and brochures, etc. This full integration made a huge difference in drawing audiences to this series.

 

When Series Started: 2001

 

How Series Started: Ottawa Storytellers (OS) had been networking with the theatre outreach person at NAC.  Six years ago, OS was approached by NAC re. a community stage partnership.  Various series on community stage: OS, storytelling in French, jazz and dance.  OS said YES.  The Artistic Director is paid a small honorarium: choosing themes, tellers, and often the material (since she’s familiar with the repertoires of the OS members.)  Her artistic goal: present an evening of storytelling as good as possible, while keeping in mind that this is a community group.  She tries to use the OS members well.

 

Now in their 6th season at NAC. 

 

Number of Performances per Year: 7.  Usually two out of town tellers, who are touring their shows, are included in addition to the OS members. $200/evening of the box office goes to the sound and light technician.

 

Average Audience Size: in 2006: 75

 

Age Group(s) of Audience: Mostly middle-aged and up.  A few 20s and 30s.

 

Cost of Tickets: $15 per show; $10 students;     $90 Subscription Package for the series

 

Successful Parts of Collaboration (and sound bites): The full integration with NAC (tickets are sold on NAC’s web site or via their box office, complete description on NAC’s web site and brochures, etc.) made a huge difference in drawing audiences to this series. The Fourth Stage itself is a draw, i.e. a popular venue in the area. NAC’s Fourth Stage Theatre works well for storytelling.  Having their professional sound and light technicians improves the storytelling experience.

 

When Series Ended: ongoing

 

Lessons Learned: Since we have had a professional place and a regular basis of performance, our storytellers have gotten better.  This has been a learning experience which people are enjoying.  We function like a mini-rep company and have workshops to help us improve.  We now try to provide an integrated evening of stories. Sometimes there is a musician to link the performance together.

 

Wish List: To have one program run for a week

 

Web Sites: www.ottawastorytellers.ca/concerts.htm

                   www.nac-cna.ca/en/communityprogramming

 

 

Appendix C

Storyteller and/or Storytelling Group: Tale Tellers of St. Augustine (Florida), Jane Sims PR

Theatre and contact person: Limelight Theatre in St. Augustine

Name of Series: Theater of the Mind: Storytelling at the Limelight Theatre

Extent of Collaboration: Theatre leased by Tale Tellers

When Series Started 1999

How Series Started

The series was started after members of the organization decided it was time to take storytelling to the next level and find a way to provide new and challenging performance opportunities for members of the group AND, in the process, generate funds for the treasury.  The group already had a following because of the concerts it had presented in the St. Augustine area, many of them to benefit charity.  (Since its inception TTSA has raised thousands of dollars to help the homeless, disadvantaged, and others in need.)     A number of possibilities were considered, including the regular rental of a small auditorium or church hall.  Several alternatives were also tried:  collaboration with a local restaurant: inviting the public to enjoy dessert and coffee in an otherwise unused banquet area to listen to stories and accepting donations for the entertainment at the door.  Initially we performed several times in an outdoor courtyard at a small pub in St. Augustine's historic district. 

The founders of Limelight Theatre, however, were very receptive to the idea of bringing "Storytelling" in, and once they learned of the possibilities we were considering, a more serious dialogue was started between representatives of each group about developing a collaboration.  This turned out to be the best possible arrangement for both organizations, and eight years later we are still going strong.  It is definitely a win-win situation:  People who come to plays see and hear information about storytelling, and visa versa.

Number of Performances per Year: 5  90-minute performances

 

Programs This Year (or one year)

4 performances per year by pairs of storytellers whose submitted theme is approved by the TTSA board of directors.  March program, "Much Ado About Stories," always features a showcase of tellers from the group.

 

Average Audience Size: 50 - 100

Age Group(s) of Audience: mature listeners

Cost of Tickets: $7 donation

When Series Ended: continuing

 

Successful Parts of Collaboration (and sound bites)

St. Augustine is a small town of approximately 12,000 people.  The events are well-publicized in the north Florida area, and draw attendance from as far away as Jacksonville, Daytona Beach, Ocala and Gainesville.

 

This project has become a wonderful vehicle for providing storytelling entertainment to mature listeners.  It gives tellers a marvelous opportunity to gain experience in a theatre setting, and generates considerable recognition and respect for the performers in the community where they live and work -- all of which combine to enhance the success of the series and a wider appreciation of storytelling as a viable entertainment medium.

Lessons Learned

We enjoy the loyal support of fans and media representatives in our community*, and we definitely appreciate an ongoing friendship with Limelight Theatre.  These alliances enable us to meet our goals which have always been part of our mission statement: the development of quality storytellers and the opportunity for them to perform.  We believe that being able to live and work in a community where people know one another and attend our programs on a regular basis has had a lot to do with the success of the "Theater of the Mind: Storytelling" series.  We are realistic in understanding that this sort of undertaking might have greater difficulty achieving long-lived success in a more densely populated area where top-dollar entertainment is also readily available and competitive.  We believe the diversity of our tellers and their programs is the most important part of the mix.  None of our tellers are featured in the Limelight more than once a year, and many opt for a bi-annual commitment.  If any "Celebrity" is to be had, it is equally spread among all who participate, and our group remains strong and dedicated its individual members as well as to its own thriving.  Living in a small town for us has definitely been a benefit! 

 

Since St. Augustine is a Mecca for tourists, we have found that our fliers are welcomed at area B&Bs and motels within walking distance of the theatre.

Problems: None.  We nurture a formula which works well for TTSA, and we never hesitate to remind ourselves:  "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

 

Online News Articles

staugustine.com/stories/051206/compass_3824567b.shtml    staugustine.com/stories/010705/com_2806530.shtml

staugustine.com/stories/111404/com_2693959.shtml   staugustine.com/stories/080804/com_2493000.shtml

Web Site: www.taletellers.org

 

 

Appendix D

Storyteller and/or Storytelling Group:  Kathy Currie, Bards by the Bay

 

Theatre and contact person: Jewel Box Theatre, Poulsbo, WA, a community theatre

Their mission: To enhance the community through theatre excellence in a destination setting.

100 seat theatre

 

Name of Series: Night Stories

 

Number of Performances per Year: 4 for adults (quarterly)

 

Programs This Year (or one year): "Stories for a Summer's Night"

 

Cost of Tickets: $10

 

Web Site: www.jewelboxpoulsbo.org/bardsbythebay.htm

 

 

Appendix E

Storyteller and/or Storytelling Group:  Caren Neile

Directory, South Florida Storytelling Project, Florida Atlantic University

 

Theatre and contact person: Willow Theatre, Boca Raton, FL, a  theatre at a community park

A new community center with a 145 seat theatre

 

Name of Series: A Cultural Feast: A Deliciously Different Performance Event

A luncheon buffet on a Saturday followed by storytelling in the theatre in the facility

 

When Series Started: 2005

 

Number of Performances per Year: 3

 

Programs This Year (or one year):

Teriyaki Tales: Featuring Kuniko Yamamoto

Bubbes & Bialys: Featuring Roslyn Bresnick-Perry

Cuba con Carne: Featuring Lucia Gonzalez

 

Age Group(s) of Audience: Senior citizens

 

Cost of Tickets: $22 including lunch and performance

 

When Series Ended:  ongoing

 

Web Site: www.fau.edu/storytelling/events.htm

Other Storytelling Activities: Story Slams  www.fau.edu/storytelling/presents.htm

 

 

Appendix F

Storyteller and/or Storytelling Group:  Nancy Vermond, St. Marys Storytelling Festival

 

Theatre and contact person: Mercury Theatre, St. Marys, Ontario  (72 seats)

 

Name of Series: none yet

 

Extent of Collaboration with Theatre: There is a rather cooperative business arrangement with the theatre.  We wait to see what we bring in, then pay a range of $150 to $300 for the space, which includes the owner's technical work  (lighting mostly, as it is an acoustic space).

 

When Series Started: 2005

 

How Series Started: Nancy approached the theatre.

 

Number of Performances per Year: series planned for Winter 2006/Spring 2007 – waiting to hear about a grant

 

Average Audience Size: 40-50

 

Age Group(s) of Audience: Adults

 

When Series Ended: hasn't started yet

 

Successful Parts of Collaboration (and sound bites)

It is a very promising relationship, and such a perfect venue.  Nancy has applied for a Canada Council for the Arts  grant for a performance series next winter/spring.  There are so many wonderful storytellers around Canada and the US (and the world) who have put a lot of work into their art form and need places to tell.   We are working on providing those places and appreciative audiences, too. 

 

Web Site: www.mercurytheatre.ca/

 

 

Appendix G

Storyteller and/or Storytelling Group:  Caren Neile, Directory, S. Florida Storytelling Project, Florida Atlantic University

 

Theatre and contact person: Caldwell Theatre, Boca Raton, FL

 

Name of Series: Perhaps it will be called: Ladies of the Night: The Three Tellers

 

Extent of Collaboration with Theatre: Series will be part of the theatre programming, in addition to plays and play readings.

 

When Series Started: 2007

 

How Series Started: Caren called the artistic director, who was familiar with storytelling via a friend.  The artistic director came to see Carmen Deedy and then went to dinner with Carmen and Caren.  "Carmen sold him on the idea of storytelling at the Caldwell.

 

Number of Performances per Year: 3 are planned of edgy/sophisticated stories for adults

Jan. 2007 Carmen Deedy

Feb. 2007 Judith Black

Mar. 2007 Beth Horner

 

Age Group(s) of Audience: Adults

 

When Series Ended: hasn't started yet

 

Web Site: www.fau.edu/storytelling/index.htm   www.caldwelltheatre.com/

 

 

 

Appendix H

Storyteller and/or Storytelling Group: Fran Powers creator

 

Theatre and contact person

 

Name of Theatre: Powerstories Theater

 

When Series Started   1998

 

How Series Started

The story begins when Powerstories Theatre was born in June 1998 as Fran Powers crossed the Wyoming border on a cross country bike trip. The idea took root when she returned to Tampa and notified women of an audition opportunity. She simply asked “Do you have a story to tell?” and women from four counties came to her small studio to learn more. Eight local women, ages 30 to 70, with little to no acting background were selected to perform for the general public. An original script “Let the Stories Move You” with original music was written to link all stories into a cohesive and inspirational theatre piece. Powerstories Theatre debuted in November 2000 at the Friday Morning Musicale in Tampa, Florida. By August 2001 they performed at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center to sold out audiences and continued performing locally until January 2003.  

 

By August 2001 they performed at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center to sold out audiences and continued performing locally until January 2003.   The story continued to build in January 2003 when Fran Powers took a leap of faith and began to pursue the Powerstories dream full time.  In March 2003, Powerstories Theatre of Tampa Bay, Inc. became a non-profit agency with the mission of “staging true stories of women and girls to open minds and hearts.” A new production of local women titled “Clarity Cometh” opened in May 2003. The “Tell My Story” Theatre Project for Girls was implemented for young girls in the inner city to tell their story using theatre and art.  A partnership agreement was formed with TUMC’s The New Place allowing Powerstories Theatre of Tampa Bay, Inc. to be one of their resident theatre troupes giving Powerstories Theatre  a “home” to rehearse and perform the girl’s projects. 

The story continues each day as we market our first show to national audiences, seek national and local corporate clients and sponsors, write grants for local programming, and find new ways to help others share their stories.  

 

When Series Ended: ongoing

 

Successful Parts of Collaboration (and sound bites)

The tickets are NOT free, audiences are NOT comprised only of family members, and several of the performances were SRO!

 

It's been successful, and Powerstories Theater now has a venue of its own.

 

Web Site www.powerstories.com

 

 

Appendix I

Storyteller and/or Storytelling Group: Loren Niemi

 

Theatre and contact person: Jungle Theater in Minneapolis, Baine Boehlke

 

Name of Series: Two Chairs Telling

 

Extent of Collaboration: part of theatre programming or storytelling just using the facility

Two Chairs Telling used the facility, marketing, box office, and the theater's stage & box office personnel.  In effect Loren was an independent producer who had a "use" agreement with the Jungle in which they acted as the fiscal agent for the grant funding. Loren selected the performers and set the performance dates with the jungle based on their season. TCT used whatever set was in place at the time and Loren would often try to match tellers or themes with the sets.

 

When Series Started: 1992

 

How Series Started: Loren knew the theater's artistic director

 

Number of Performances per Year

once a month, 8 months per year.  Later a 'festival' weekend occurred at this theater and 3 other venues

 

Programs This Year (or one year)

Not available at the moment-the format was two tellers on stage at the same time who were responding to each other and/or to a central theme. They included local, regional and national level tellers and well as folks who did not identify themselves as storytellers -- politicians, doctors, journalists, environmentalists, etc. Sometimes it would just be one tells a story and then the other would, sometimes they would have scripted it out to interweave stories or in at least one instance move from story to dance and back again.

 

Average Audience Size: 60 in a 90 seat theater

Age Group(s) of Audience: 20-30 20%, 31-55  40%,   56-    40%

Cost of Tickets: $5 students/Jungle season ticket holders,  $8  all others

When Series Ended: 1998

 

Why Series Ended

Two reasons: first, Loren received a Bush Leadership Fellowship and was going to be leaving the Twin Cities - second, the Jungle was  reorganizing their programming schedule and producer relationships.

 

Successful Parts of Collaboration (and sound bites)

It began with a broad definition of what storytelling was and therefore mixed and matched storytellers, actors, poets, others who lived by talking. Loren always tried to pair folks who could spark off or support each other. A rural and low-key Mike Cotter, as an example, with a totally urban and at that time very shy Colleen Kruse telling for the first time. The size of the theater was perfect for a storytelling - 90 seats and the last row just 30 feet from the stage.

 

Lessons Learned

Grant funding helped sweeten the pot -- obtained by Loren. Grants paid the theater for the use of the space, their staffing, provided a separate promotional budget for the series and made it possible to pay every teller a minimum of $100 independent of box office receipts.

 

Problems

Equity or LORT (League of Regional Theatres) houses might be very expensive propositions  www.lort.org.  Because the Jungle had a LORT agreement, and was a non-union shop, this was not a problem for the TCT series.

 

 

Appendix J

Storyteller and/or Storytelling Group: Ruth Stotter

 

Theatre and contact person: Throckmorton Theatre

 

Name of Series: Mill Valley storytelling evenings

 

Extent of Collaboration: part of theatre programming or storytelling just using the facility

A monthly storytelling evening.  The theater  is in an artsy town  of 8,000 people with several near-by cities.  They were very excited about it and helped by putting it on the internet, accepting phone reservations and credit cards.

 

When Series Started: 2004

 

How Series Started

Ambitious idea of Ruth Stotter's to build community support and interest in this performance genre

 

Number of Performances per Year: Held three and then canceled program.

 

Programs This Year (or one year)

Laura Simms, once with two local tellers, and a fantastic Halloween show with eight tellers

 

Average Audience Size: 80

 

Age Group(s) of Audience: storytellers only

 

Cost of Tickets: $8

 

When Series Ended: 2004

 

Why Series Ended

no general audience members came, only storytellers. Financial disaster.

 

Successful Parts of Collaboration (and sound bites)

Storytellers will travel 50 miles to attend a storytelling event.

All the evenings were excellent theatre for the people who did attend.

 

Lessons Learned

Should not have agreed to pay tellers $500. 50% of take at door would have made it fairer for everyone, and, they would have helped build the audience. 

Tellers volunteered for the Halloween program (their idea) as they  wanted the series to continue. 

After the 3rd program, I received calls from nearly a dozen tellers telling me they wanted to be in the series - but they wanted to be paid and none were interested in helping with production costs.

 

Problems

no general audience members came, only storytellers

people assumed, despite clear advertising, that the events were for children

 

 

Appendix K

Storyteller and/or Storytelling Group: Ruth Stotter

 

Theatre and contact person: 3 different theatres used

 

Name of Series:  WIVES: The Six Queens of Henry VIIII

 

Extent of Collaboration: theatres just rented

 

When Series Started: 2004

 

How Series Started: Enthusiastic experimental idea of Ruth Stotter

 

Number of Performances per Year

We did 5 performances in three theatres.  The six Queens  met in a coffee shop in 2004 and discussed their lives.  The cast were all storytellers and each did one or more monologues, storytelling style, center stage. Their monologues were  50% of the production.

 

Programs This Year (or one year) repeated five times and some people attended several times

 

Average Audience Size: 125

 

Age Group(s) of Audience: All adults

 

Cost of Tickets: $10

 

When Series Ended: After 5 shows.

 

Why Series Ended

Cast members had too many scheduling problems.

 

Successful Parts of Collaboration (and sound bites)

Different personalities developing show gave it variety that one person writing it all might not have achieved.  It was fun!

Lessons Learned

a week run is a better idea as that gives audiences a chance for attendees to tell others about the show and is more likely to get newspapers reviews.

allow fewer free tickets to cast members. Some had 5 guests every show!

Every theatre has different policies.  I should have spent more time asking questions about the small print on contracts. One theatre charged me for a stage manager, lighting person, security person, and a per ticket fee for taking reservations.  Another theatre had NO charges other than the nominal theatre rental fee.

 

Problems

This was an expensive production . All contributors [Friends of the Wives ($25), Significant Others ($50) and Lovers ($75)] received two free tickets, their names in the program, a box of chocolates with pictures of the Queens and a coffee mug with the Queen's pictures that disappeared when filled with hot water. However, all contributors  were my friends and my  relatives.  I learned  only after the last show that the cast members had decided not to send out the form (with their picture and the picture of the Queen they were portraying)  requesting pre-production support as they were "uncomfortable asking for money."    <moan>

Cast members received a modest fee of $500 for their work. I broke even on theatre rentals and costumes. All other costs were a loss.

 

 

Appendix L

Storyteller and/or Storytelling Group: Mary-Eileen McClear

 

Theatre and contact person: Stratford Festival of Canada

 

Name of Series

 Family experience

 

Extent of Collaboration: fully part of the theatre’s offerings

 

When Series Started: approximately 1999

 

How Series Started

The goal of the education department was to get more families to attend plays, by enhancing families’ experiences and preparing them before attending a play.  Mary-Eileen told the folk tales which were the sources of the play, or retold the play’s themes, or told stories which reflected on the play.  An example of the last type was telling Jewish stories in preparation for seeing “Fiddler on the Roof.”

 

Number of Performances per Year: 2-4

 

Average Audience Size: 100-150

 

Age Group(s) of Audience: Some families, but mostly adults

 

Cost of Tickets: approximately $30-$40 (kids got a $5 discount)

 

When Series Ended: approximately 2004.

 

Why Series Ended

Despite having a good sized audience (mostly adults) at each storytelling event, the goal of getting more families to attend the plays was not achieved.

 

Successful Parts of Collaboration (and sound bites)

The audience was appreciative and came back in subsequent years.

 

3/10/07

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