A Dialogue & Answers to Some of Your Questions on Acting & Storytelling
You: What is the difference between your work as storyteller and actor? And what’s the difference between storytellers and actors, in general?
Me: Oh, I’m glad you asked and I’ll try to explain.
All actors are storytellers.
All actors tell stories by entering into the lives of those who have lived in another time or place. We put on their clothes. We speak their language. We consume their tastes. We take on their customs. We get inside the character’s heart and mind, to enlighten the character’s soul. We love playing dress-up and make-believe. Plus it’s fun to try on other people’s lives for a short period of time. We step into their shoes to bring a broader perspective to the table, to elucidate the times they have lived in and the human condition.
Actors speak words that are written by the playwright or screenwriter, but sometimes the actor is the writer – as in my case. In a play actors relate to other characters on stage.
In a solo-performance or a one-person play, the actor will also relate to other characters on stage. Except the one actor you see on stage now embodies, portrays, and plays all the roles. So, you can have a cast of thousands with one person playing them all. Very cool!
There is also what is called the fourth wall. The fourth wall is the imaginary ‘wall’ at the front of the stage. The actors and audience are on different sides of this wall. The audience watches and listens in on the actions of the play through this invisible wall. The audience generally does not take part in the conversation on stage. They are more like eavesdroppers watching the drama unfold.
A storyteller can also be an actor for storytellers become characters in the stories they tell.
The difference is that storytellers quickly slip back into their own personas to tell the story. They weave back and forth between telling the story and becoming the characters in the story. They don’t generally memorize their lines as an actor does, but they learn the story so well that it allows for great spontaneity and unpredictability between themselves and their audience. So there is generally no fourth wall. Storytellers engage the audience directly – even inviting the audience to take part in the story that is unfolding.
I have been called actress, storyteller, monologist, and solo performance artist. I graciously accept them all.
I write and tell stories and I write and perform plays. The shows that are developed use both acting and storytelling technique. They are designed to be entertaining, but they also enlighten and engage the audience. Material is carefully selected and spun to create a unique experience.
In the imaginary land of acting, I am in India swimming in the Ganges River or in Germany while bombs are dropping all around me. I may be in Africa or on the moon, in the land of the little people or the giants. Sometimes there is a fourth wall and sometimes I reach through that wall to engage the audience as my imaginary partner, the audience as a classroom of children, women sipping tea, prison inmates or a panel of priests.
As a storyteller, I become characters in the story and then I become myself again. I knit and weave between the mystical land of story and the present telling of the tale.
What is a dramatic reading?
Dramatic Readings are fully developed readings of performance pieces: stories, monologues and song. This can be just as engaging as realized performances, and allows for a different kind of ongoing connection and intimacy with the audience that has been especially appreciated and enjoyed.
In a dramatic reading, I give myself the option to stop and speak to the audience directly. I may talk about where a piece came from or how it developed and evolved. I may speak about the creative-inspirational process and answer questions.
In the show Water from the Welles, I step into the character’s shoes and perform monologues. But I may also read a poem or tell a story directly to the audience. Acting and storytelling spin together to create a unique tapestry.
In the broadest sense of the word, we are all storytellers and actors.
William Shakespeare wrote…
All the world’s a stage
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and entrances
And one man in his time plays many parts
May you enjoy the parts you play!