The Wee Review’s Emma Hay was asked/volunteered/coerced/badgered to take a slot at All Of Us, a new storytelling evening at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow. Here she tells us how she got on…
I don’t actually remember signing up for this; I’m still not sure I did. It wasn’t long into a conversation with my colleague, and producer of the event, Michael O’Neill (pictured), when he pulled out from me a series of ‘first times’ that would fit the theme of the opening event in the series of All of Us, storytelling nights that will take place at the Tron Theatre on the first Tuesday of each month.
The premise is this: a handful of ordinary people with stories to tell are given the forum to tell them. Each session is centred round a theme, broad enough to encourage a diverse range of submissions. Every storyteller is given some time with a director ahead of the event to gain advice on structure or delivery – though note, this isn’t a night of performance. It’s stories told as you’d hear them in the pub or across a dinner table, the only difference is these ones are told through a microphone and recorded for podcast at a later date.
I found myself preparing, telling my chosen story – of the first time I found my Dad funny – over and over in my head. Drafting it on paper. Trying to think up witty lines, or hooks for the audience. Telling it to other people to get a feel for the tangents and memories that would inevitably surface, remembering all the things I’ve done that were much scarier than this – being the narrator in school nativities, karaoke at the office party, getting a blood test.
There is a gift in sharing a first-hand experience with another human being. To identify with the textures and tones in other voices as they speak and to hear the words they don’t say in between those they do is novel. We are all victims of miscommunication or misunderstanding a text or tweet or facebook post (or at least those that aren’t pictures of food or cats). 10 minutes instead of 140 characters is something of a treat. As a storyteller, you’re invited to take as much time or as many words as you need to.
The event itself sits somewhere between six characters in search of a microphone and story-karaoke. From the mundane to the mad, My Chemical Romance, Dolly Parton, Birmingham, sexual encounters and near-death experiences, it’s hard to predict what will come next, but easy to appreciate the knowledge and wealth of experience that comes just with living. When you realise that, standing at a microphone with a number of faces beaming back at you becomes easy. Your story is your offering, be it funny, sad or embarrassing. ‘Screw it’, I thought, ‘I’m here now’.
I still wasn’t entirely sure how I’d ended up volunteering, but I was glad that I did. I suspect now that the rush of conversation afterwards with audience members, friends and colleagues telling their stories to you, or sharing how they identified with the stories told, was ultimately Michael O’Neill’s endgame. ‘I just like hearing other people’s stories,’ he had told me. So, it seems, do many others. This isn’t performance, telling stories is fundamentally about being human, connecting with others and having the opportunity not just to like, favourite and share them, but to make them your own.