Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A Year of Plays: The Last Cargo Cult:

It takes a certain talent to reel an audience in with just your words. My boyfriend and I took note of this after attending a Moth-inspired birthday party a few months back. All the guests were asked to bring a story to share, and the best one belonged to a friend named Brian. His was a long and outrageous tale about exploring Disneyland in an altered state of consciousness while on a high school field trip. It would have been a good story coming out of anyone’s lips, but Brian made it a work of art. Rather than go the obvious route and deliver his nefarious account with bombastic showmanship, Brian spoke quietly at first. He sat there with a soft look in his eye, as he conjured the images from his memory and set about describing them to us. He took his time, but not unduly. He offered detail upon detail, and in so doing captured nuance and tone. But most of all, he allowed the memory of the event to affect him in the retelling of it. So that as the story progressed, we too felt the exhilaration, the wildness, and the fractured absurdity of his journey, as if it were in fact happening to us.

That’s not easy. It takes confidence. How many times have you tried to convey a story that you know is hilarious or otherwise incredible, and yet you find yourself skipping over things, rushing it along? You get skittish when your audience doesn’t immediately respond the way you want them to, and you give the story short shrift. Your fear gets the better of you and disappointment wins the day. Not so with Brian. He took the risk to soften up and take his time, confident it would pay off. Of course, he had told his tale before and knew what parts to enhance or leave out, an advantage over us skittish story-rushers. But that is part of the art as well. Trying again after you flop the first time. Honing the story over time.