Production Notes

I’ve been taking a writing class with Chicago’s 2nd Story.
They meet twice a month in a wine bar and read/tell their stories. Music is used to introduce stories as well as within stories.
Between stories a flight of wine is served by the storytellers so that they can interact with the audience.
Side note: they also produce multiple events in other venues around town, but Webster’s Wine Bar is ‘their’ place.
In addition to learning new stuff about the writing process and the 2nd story model in particular (1st person narrative, begin in action, dialogue, etc) and now totally understand the words “what you do doesn’t fit in with our aesthetic”, I’m learning how they produce events.
Not planning on talking again about personal stories vs folktales for adults and which one is ‘better’.
But since they produce differently than the typical ‘storytelling’ events I’ve been involved in, and are quite successful in the niche they’ve created, here’s what I’m  thinking today:
What I Like About the 2nd Story Production Model
1-A) They give great descriptions of exactly what their event is about. Folks don’t need to try to figure out what storytelling is. They know what they’re going to get before they walk thru the door.
We say that forgiveness is divine, but what about those we can’t forgive? Join 2nd Story this November as our tellers share stories of hating and being hated, of forgiving and being forgiven. From a young woman’s imaginary internet feud with a local celebrity, to man’s struggle to be at peace with the life and death of his alcoholic father, our tellers will guide you on a journey through the instinct to hate, and the challenge to forgive.
1-B) They know exactly what everyone will be telling before they arrive that night, thus enabling them to offer the specific description.
No teller/reader arrives, looks at the audience, and then decides what’s right.
Instead they tell their audiences in advance what stories will be told — drawing an audience that is interested in exactly, more or less, what they are offering.
2) They offer a descriptive title. Rather than ‘Storytelling Festival’ or even ‘Tellabration’ (no offense intended and not trying to stir the pot and get everyone riled up (but does anyone besides storytellers know what Tellabration means?)), they might say:

A Cold Day in Hell: Stories of Hatred and Forgiveness

3-A) They get the storytellers in a room, more than once, and coach the stories.

Must be available to coach to participate.
It’s being produced under the 2nd Story banner — they want quality assurance that it will reflect well on 2nd Story.
Yes, it is beautifully written — and they know this because the stories were pre-selected during an audition process. This audition process involved sending the story in via email, then showing up for a live reading.
Yes, perhaps you have told it before.
But this is 2nd Story where we want it to be more conversational than ‘performed’, where we want to get to the heart of the matter, where we want to make sure it moves from party anecdote to some sort of universal appeal, where we want your best. And maybe you haven’t even unearthed your ‘best’ in this story.
So now we’re going to refine the story — coach it, point out the good stuff, note the stuff that could be better, make sure it comes in on time, and coach the presentation.
Side note 1: This is practical and do-able for 2nd Story, because it is Chicago based — storytellers live locally.
Side note 2: Yes, they want it to fit into their mold — not going to argue that.
Side note 3: Yes, I recognize a ‘theatre’ mindset in the production process.
Side note 4: They’re never surprised by the story going over time or by the perhaps ‘wrong’ story choice for this audience.
In ‘our’ world, we’ve seen both.
Side note 5: Editorial: But as I sit in my class with the instructors who are telling me all about the 2nd Story model, who are coaching us in the 2nd Story art form, with (some) people who might want to tell in a 2nd Story event, I’m thinking: Wow, this has never happened with the storytelling events I know. I’ve been involved on both sides of the equation — festival, conference, event — producing and telling — and the process is always the same: story chosen, bring it, tell it. I’ve listened to audition tapes and thought, “I’d really like to choose this story for this event but it needs a bit of coaching”.
And ‘we’ don’t do that. So maybe the story is selected, but not coached. Maybe the story is not selected.
Either way, we’re not growing our audience if we go the first route and we’re not growing our storytellers if we go the second route. And in the end we’re not growing our art form.
4) They know who they are:
We tell our stories so you’ll tell yours.
5) They don’t shoot for the BIG audiences. They collaborate with small venues and fill them up.
They sell tickets in advance online for a reduced price in order to ‘guarantee’ seating. Yes, the venue is small. Yes, if you want a seat then plan on getting it early so as not to be disappointed at the door that night.
6) They do shoot for the sponsors and grants and have figured out how to make that happen. Note the bottom of their website with that information listed.
7) They’ve got an army of enthusiastic volunteers each taking a piece of the task and running with it — marketing, new site development, grant writing, sponsors, production, sound, music, website, podcast, etc, etc, etc
Side note: I haven’t yet figured out how they’ve energized and mobilized this army of worker bees, but that’s my next goal.
8) They offer a continuous stream of various classes.
Expounding nearly done:
9) I realize you can’t compare a national or state storytelling organization with a local Chicago one — apples, oranges, and all that.
But what can we take from this model and use to be better than we were before?
And for those of us working locally — who can get storytellers together before an event, or who are developing small venues, or are looking for new directions, or who are open to considering that we can join forces with other forms and models of ‘storytelling’ — what can we take from this model and use to be better than we were before?
Side note: Editorial: Assuming we do want to be better than we were before.
Wanna talk?
Let me know.

November 12, 2011 at 5:07 pm Leave a comment

The Junkyard Wonders – Storytelling for Bullying Prevention

“What some see as bent and broken throwaways are actually amazing things waiting to be made into something new. Something unexpected. Something surprising. Here’s your chance. Forget what the object was… imagine what it could be!”

For kids who feel different or odd – maybe only sometimes; maybe all the time.
For kids who shy away from ‘different’ classmates – maybe only sometimes; maybe all the time.
For your next family read-aloud (grade K-6) select Patricia Polacco’s newest book, The Junkyard Wonders.

November 3, 2011 at 7:06 pm 1 comment

Halloween Hobo — Storytelling for Bullying Prevention

Halloween Hobo
© Sue Black

When I was a little girl, every Halloween costume was the same as the year before. You see, my parents didn’t have a lot of money. And I had 3 brothers and 3 sisters so we couldn’t just pile in the car and go over to KMart and buy seven new costumes every year. Instead, we were told to “Go in the basement and find something to wear in the hand-me-down box”.
You know what a hand-me-down box is, right? It’s that big cardboard box down in the basement. The one overflowing with jumbled up, wrinkled clothes that your older cousins and your big brothers and sisters don’t fit into any more. Those clothes will be yours some day, as soon as you get a little bit bigger. That’s the hand-me-down box.
My brothers and sisters and I – Jeanne, Jo, Mark, John, Judy, Lenny, and Sue – we marched down into the basement, sure we’d find an awesome costume hiding in the hand-me-down box. We threw shirts and pants and skirts and dresses and underwear and socks and boots high into the air. We screamed when we saw something perfect. We ended up tugging and pulling clothes away from one another. By the time we were done, the end result was always the same as the year before. We were holding over sized shirts and worn out pants and boots with holes in the toes. The Below kids were going trick or treating as Halloween Hoboes again!
But one year was different. (more…)

September 28, 2011 at 4:31 pm Leave a comment

You and Me – Bully Free! Bullying Prevention Strategy for Today

You and Me – Bully Free! Bullying Prevention Strategy –

For kids:
When you experience or witness bully behavior take these steps:
(1)   Stay calm
(2)   Say ‘stop’ if you can
(3)   Walk away – not because you are ignoring the behavior but because you refuse to accept it
(4)   Talk to an adult at school and at home

For the adults in their lives:
When a child who has been targeted reports bully behavior to you:
(1)   Stay calm
(2)  Listen
(3)   Thank them for telling you
(4)   Communicate: “This isn’t your fault.”
(5)   Find out how they’ve handled it so far; brainstorm prevention strategies; find out how your child wants you to help
(6)   Provide ongoing supervision and structure to places bully behavior occurs
(7)  Remember that targets are chosen for their perceived inability to defend themselves. Be in it for the long term: remain observant, aware, involved, engaged — keep checking back with the target, the bystanders, and the one who bullies — model tolerance, inclusion, respect, and empathy

For the adults in their lives:
When you observe bully behavior:
(1)   Stay calm
(2)   Intervene immediately; don’t ignore it
(3)   Intervene even if unsure it is bullying
(4)   Be clear the behavior must stop
(5)   Compliment bystanders who have intervened; suggest future actions for bystanders who didn’t step in this time; send them off
(6)   Check in with the target to make sure he/she requires no immediate medical/physical care; assure him you’ll check in with him later; send him off; check in later – talk, listen, brainstorm, find out what you can do to help
(7)   Let the one who bullied know the behavior is not acceptable and must stop; implement appropriate consequences(this will vary based on your relationship to the child — and we’ll talk about this in a later post)
(8)   Provide ongoing supervision and structure to places bully behavior occurs
(9)  Remember that targets are chosen for their perceived inability to defend themselves. Be in it for the long term: remain observant, aware, involved, engaged — keep checking back with the target, the bystanders, and the one who bullies — model tolerance, inclusion, respect, and empathy

August 18, 2011 at 7:35 am Leave a comment

The Beautiful Princess — Storytelling for Bullying Prevention

Over 13,000 small islands in southeast Asia comprise the 4th largest country in the world –  Indonesia. If you travel to a place called Senuro Village on one of those islands, you may find the grave of Princess Senuro. This is her story.

Long, long ago a young woman of great kindness– Princess Pinang Masak – lived on the island of Sumatera. She was also beautiful, so beautiful that people throughout the island talked of her radiant face, exquisite eyes, enchanting hair, and delicate hands. She was unique among all the women of Sumatera but the people spoke not of her kindness, only her great beauty.  Everyone throughout the island heard of the beautiful Princess Pinang Masak. Many young men arrived at her door, asking her to be their bride. She had, so far, said no to them all.

Sumatera was ruled by a powerful man known as the Sultan of Sumatera. When word came to his palace that there was a princess  more gorgeous than any other on the far side of the island, the sultan decided, “She shall be my wife! Soldiers, bring the princess to me at once!”

Fortunately, word reached the princess that the sultan was sending soldiers. “No,” she cried. “No. I’ll not be forced to be the wife of one blinded by beauty. I’ll not be loved for that.” Princess Pinang Masak thought of how she could escape the soldiers … and she came up with a plan.
The princess collected dark, purple blooms from the banana tree and boiled them in a vat of water. As the water boiled it turned a deep maroon color. When the water cooled, the princess bathed in the dark liquid. She poured the water over her arms and neck, her shoulders and legs. She scrubbed her skin until it hurt. She held her breath and pushed her face beneath the water. She scoured her cheeks until they were raw. The princess did not stop until her skin looked streaked and dirty. Then she found dried grass and sticks and bugs and tangled her hair with them. After that she put on the filthy, ragged clothes of the village beggar. Her beauty had been ruined. (more…)

August 16, 2011 at 4:52 pm 2 comments

You and Me, Bully Free! Bullying Prevention Strategy for Today

It’s back to school time!
Let’s make it a great year not only for our own kids but for the kids they’ll meet along the way.

You and Me, Bully Free! Bullying Prevention Strategy for Today–
For kids:
1) Include someone new today – in your conversation, at your lunch table, in your game, on your team, as part of your project.
2) Go ahead and be brave. Be the one who practices “all are welcome here”.

For the adults in their lives:
1) Include someone new today – in your conversation, at your lunch table, in an introduction you might be making, while opening a door.
2) Be the one who models “all are welcome here”.

Bullying prevention facts:
1) Bystanders are usually watching when kids get bullied.
Child bystanders were present in 85% or more of the bullying incidents in playgrounds and classrooms.
2) Most kids who watch bullying feel uncomfortable.
80-90% of bystanders reported that watching bullying was unpleasant and made them feel uncomfortable.
Many kids also felt they should step in to help a child who was being bullied.

However –
3) Most kids who watch bullying do nothing to stop it.
Being uncomfortable rarely translates into action. Only ~10% of kids – one out of 10 – stood up for the target.

The Good News! –
4) Kids who try to stop the bullying usually make things better.
When bystanders intervened to stand up for the target, they were successful in stopping the bullying more than 50% of the time – usually within the first 10 seconds.

Try today’s You and Me, Bully Free! tip.
Stop bully behavior before it even starts by including kids who are often left out.

August 16, 2011 at 9:51 am 1 comment

Bullies and Backpacks — resources

My friend, Karen Chace, is an amazing storyteller and unbelievable web researcher.
She just posted a blog called  Bullies and Backpacks. It’s filled with resources you might want to check out as your kids head back to school.

August 15, 2011 at 7:42 pm Leave a comment

The Wizard of Oz — Storytelling for Bullying Prevention

Back to school, Dorothy-style:
When Dorothy saw that the Scarecrow was confused and not quite sure which way to go, she walked with him. When she and Scarecrow saw the Tin Man was sad, they asked him to join them. And when the three of them realized the Lion was really afraid, they included him too. From then on they traveled the yellow brick road together — no longer afraid of lions or tigers or bears.
Oh my! If only every child started the new school year like Dorothy traveled to Oz — a little afraid but brave enough to try, willing to ask for help, willing to offer help, with a song in her heart, including new friends along the way, in search of that place where the dreams you dare to dream really do come true.

What other scenes from the story of the Wizard of Oz do you think provide good examples for kids of bullying prevention strategies?

August 14, 2011 at 12:33 pm 1 comment

Storytelling for Bullying Prevention — The Donkey and the Lapdog

The Donkey and the Lapdog
©Sue Black / August 2011

Once, a long time ago, there was a donkey who worked very hard. It was his job to pull the farmer’s wagon filled with logs to the mill in town. The wagon creaked and groaned underneath the heavy load. With the harness strapped across his back and the weight of the wagon pushing against him, the donkey strained and trudged and struggled to haul his load across the bumpy fields.
Sometimes the donkey complained.
♫ “I’ve been pullin’ this old wagon,
All the live long day. Hee-haw.
I’ve been pullin’ this old wagon,
And I’ve got somethin’ to say. Hee-haw.”

Of course, the farmer didn’t listen to a thing the donkey said. You see, he had a tiny, little brown and white dog that he loved. The little brown and white dog always sat on the seat of the wagon right next to the farmer. The dog barked, the farmer talked, and the two of them paid no attention to the donkey. The dog wiggled closer and sat on the farmer’s lap, the farmer scratched the dog behind his ears, and the donkey trudged on.
The donkey complained again.
♫ “I’ve been pullin’ this old wagon,
All the live long day. Hee-haw.
I’ve been pullin’ this old wagon,
And I’ve got somethin’ to say. Hee-haw.”


August 11, 2011 at 3:34 pm Leave a comment

Storytelling for Bullying Prevention — The Cat, the Chicken, and the Mouse

The Cat, the Chicken, and the Mouse
©Sue Black /August 2011

Little Mouse was born in a nest in a dark, quiet corner of the barn. When Little Mouse was newly born his skin was pink – no fur at all – and his eyes were closed, so of course he had to stay inside of that nest close to Mama Mouse.
But Little Mouse grew up fast. By the time Little Mouse was 10 days old he had soft brown fur. When Little Mouse was 14 days old he opened his eyes – round, black eyes. At just 21 days old, he was already boasting. “Mama, Mama, I don’t need to stay in this nest anymore. I’m all grown up. I want to see the world. I want to find friends to play with; not just you, Mama.”
(Mama Mouse) “Alright, Little Mouse. You go see the world. There is much to learn. But stay close to the barn, be home in time for dinner, and for goodness sake choose your friends wisely!”
Little Mouse nodded and scampered away. He explored the barnyard most of the afternoon. Little Mouse hurried into the barn just as Mama was putting supper on the table.

(Mama) “Well, how was your day? Did you make any friends?”
(Little Mouse) “Mama, Mama, I saw the prettiest animal, with soft fur. Just like me. She had long whiskers, too. Just like me. And, Mama, she had four legs and two ears. Just like me. Her tail was long – just like me – and she waved it at me; I think she was glad to see me. Mama, when I got close, she said ‘hello’. Well, she said, “Meow”, but I think she was really saying ‘hello’. Mama, when I go play tomorrow I’m going to ask her if she will be my friend.”

(Mama – alarmed) “Little Mouse, you need to be careful that was a ……………”
(Little Mouse) “Oh, Mama, I was careful. Let me tell you the rest. I saw a terrible monster too! I saw her sitting on an egg! Not like me! I don’t sit on eggs. She had feathers and wings, too. Not like me. She had ugly skinny legs – only two legs – with no fur at all. Not like me. She had hideous, red spikes on top of her head and wrinkly, red skin hanging under her beak. All she did was scratch and peck in the dirt with her beak. A beak, Mama, not even a mouth. Not like me. And, Mama, when she opened her mouth a horrible shriek came out, “Cock-a-doodle-do!” I ran away as fast as I could. I do not want to be her friend. I’m very careful, Mama.”
(Mama Mouse) “Little Mouse, no! That pretty ‘just like me’ animal you saw was a cat. She likes to eat young mice like you for dinner! That terrible ‘not like me’ monster was nothing but a chicken. Chicken only eats seeds and grain. She won’t hurt you. Be careful the next time you go out, Little Mouse. Be careful how you choose your friends.”

August 11, 2011 at 1:03 pm 1 comment

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