I am a storyteller, but until now, I’ve never told stories dressed up as the characters I talk about. My only costumed performances happen when I am in my clown persona with Patch Adams or at Oregon Country Fair. I did it for the first time last week at a benefit performance for my friends at Alwun House ( HYPERLINK “http://www.alwunhouse.org” www.alwunhouse.org).
I told a Native American story dressed as an old, hunched-over Indian grandfather in traditional clothes and a mask with skins and antlers. Supported by a wooden staff. I shuffled onstage singing in a higher-pitched, scratchy, labored voice. Then I sat on a stool, my hand shaking with a tremor. I spoke about my life. When I recalled an experience as a young warrior; I slowly rose up to my full height and with deep-voiced passion, danced in ecstasy.
Telling the story this way intensified its power for my listeners and me. Storytelling is the oldest form of entertainment, and the need for narrative is deeply embedded in our brains; we are hard-wired to be turned on by stories. When we listen to a captivating tale it transports us into the highest consciousness. Stories create visual images in our conscious minds, and also awaken us at the unconscious level; that place where we touch our fears, dreams, and locked-up passions.
The most compelling stories have three critical elements; challenge, struggle, and resolution. If a sympathetic character can captivate our imagination, it allows us to experience things that we would never be able to squeeze into a lifetime of direct experience.
Becoming that old man was a transformative experience for me. It was not my practiced platform presentation; instead I became a channel through which words flowed effortlessly. As I write this, and try to capture the power of the moment, I find that words cannot convey its magic. For the first time I owned the dramatic power of that story in a way I’d never experienced before. Performing the story this way simply made it more believable, and I want to do it again.
I wish I could show you some pictures but photos weren’t permitted so you’ll have to wait for the video.