Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Original vs Retellings

Actually, I had this odd conversation last night at the finals of the Slamtastiqe Slam Tellings. An audience member at the Slam Telling was curious to know which stories were original or retellings. "If I were a judge, that would definitely influence my scoring. I mean, original work has to count more than simply retelling someone else's story, right?"

The judges are asked to score the tellers as follows: 3 points for content, 3 points for delivery, 3 points for performance, and 1 point for awesomeness. The event isn't a Creative Writing class: Storytelling is a performance art, therefore how the teller embodies the story he/she is telling is what really matters.

Even if the story is being retold, it's being retold in the performance style of the teller. That means the teller should have exercised their creativity is making the story their own,  which often means rewrites and restructurings of the story. Timing, gestures, voice, and sheer presence is what carries the story to the six senses of the listener. How the story is told is just as important, if not more, than if the story is an original work or a retelling.

Sure, it's impressive when storytellers write their own stories, but because storytelling is a performance art, how it is crafted, told, and embodied determines the quality of the performance. Since every story is a variation of the 7 basic plot-lines, even if the storyteller writes it from scratch, it's going to reuse something that someone else has written.

Back on June 5th, when I performing with Concerto Della Donna, I had to rewrite sections of the classic Norwegian folktale "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" so that it would work with the overall performance. A friend who was sitting in the audience, who has seen me tell stories for many years, was able to pick out certain aspects of the story as being my own additions because he recognized my style. And still, he was surprised at some other changes that were not part of the original story.


Copyright© 2010 John David Hickey