I spent last week fishing in the Superior National Forest, hiking, turning 28, and blowing stuff up. Those mere facts kept me from posting entries that I had written, but hadn’t had time to edit – so, from my screen to yours, the freshly edited archives:
JUNE 21, 2006:
I was approached last week to do a storytelling gig for a St. Paul Public Schools summer program. Did you catch that? – storytelling; not story-reading. As in making up a story for 45 minutes, no book, no script. As in all by myself in front of a gaggle of kids. I initially put forth strong protestations, but was convinced to reconsider by a few well-meaning friends. And money. Good money. So I agreed. And then the panic attacks set in.
Ever since that lapse of good judgment, I have been just shy of completely terrified. White-knuckled-nightmarish-poor-attitude-terrified.
Yes, I had several years of training and experience doing improv comedy over at the Brave New Workshop, but that was always aimed at adults…let me repeat that – adults. As in not children. As in swearing like a pirate. As in creating socially inappropriate characters in socially inappropriate situations and acting socially inappropriate until hilarity ensued or the lights were turned off. Not great experience to fall back on for an audience between the ages of 6 and 9.
I have spent the last two nights obsessing over what story to tell, and finally had a breakthrough involving a humpback whale, a green sea turtle, three dolphins, and two fishermen. I even did a load of research to back it all up - no made-up stuff for these kids - I’m hard core (well, okay, save for the anthropomorphization of five sea creatures, but whatever – these kids are gonna learn something).
So I should relax now that I have a story, right? NO. Now I’m terrified to tell it. Seriously. I have to stretch a three minute scenario into 30-45 minutes. hhhhhhelp.
JUNE 22, 2006
I once had a teacher tell me that my writing was like a frayed rope, and that I spent “way too much time on the frays, and not enough time on the rope.” I guess this was the one time that the frays were actually useful – I told a 35-minute story. Take that, rope.
I think it actually went well, but you never know with kids and teachers. Kids are never itching to give constructive feedback, and the teachers were so nice that I could have probably gotten naked and flailed and they wouldn't have batted an eye.
The start of the story was, um, rather rocky, but once I got about five minutes in I finally hit my groove. There were a few moments when I got flustered because I had left out certain details at the beginning, and had to figure out a way to reincorporate them without breaking the flow too much, but all in all, it wasn’t half bad.
My favorite parts:
1) one little girl was trying to be a bad-ass and sat down right in front so she could give me hard looks. About halfway through the story I glanced down at her - she had her thumb plugged in her mouth, and was looking up at me with huge round brown eyes. I realized I had won her over, and I about melted.
2) a little boy in the very back of the group was intrigued by how physically animated I was while telling the story, and mimicked most of my huge arm gestures in the very back of the room - practicing them carefully so the other kids wouldn’t notice.
3) when I told about two fisherman discussing what they should do with the green sea turtle they accidentally caught, mentioning that they could get $5,000 for it if they brought it to their boss (thanks, Roald Dahl!), one little boy's eyes got HUGE and he, in sheer wonder, slowly mouthed the words, "five thousand dollars!"
I’m still kicking myself for forgetting to record it so I could listen and learn how to make it better if there’s a “next time.” I would love to go back – those kids were absolutely precious.