by Stuart H. Nager
I found out about World Storytelling Day (http://worldstorytellingday.webs.com/) on February 23, 2011, through a posting on Facebook. The global event, centered around the theme of Water, was to be on or around March 20th. I’ve been working hard as a Teaching Artist, doing my storytelling and other performance gigs here and there, and thought this was a great day to support. Jazzed, excited and energized, I already had a meeting set up for the 24th with Sr. St John Delany, who runs The Center for Literacy Enrichment in White Plains, NY. Kismet, cosmic synchronicity, destiny…it’s seemed to be all there.
Many of you are probably sitting there, shaking your head (for a variety of reasons) as you read this. Twenty-Five days? Is he nuts? Does he know what goes into the planning of events, the time you need to find a space, do marketing, get your talent lined up, etc., etc., etc?
Yes, I do, and I took this as a challenge to myself to make this happen. I have produced many shows, benefits and events over the years. Time was against me in many ways, yet this one was just about the smoothest thing I’ve ever attempted. In the end, it was also a lot fun and very satisfying.
My meeting with Sr. St John went well. We discussed a number of projects that she wanted to accomplish, and then I told her about my idea. Her eyes, which are normally lit up with life, really lit up when I explained how we could join World Storytelling Day. We would do the event to support The Center for Literacy Enrichment (https://sites.google.com/site/thecenterforliteracy/). With the Sister’s blessings (yes, pun intended) I had the ball rolling. She was going to acquire the space for the US that was to come, help in getting the word out, and the Center would print our program. My cost? I gave two Guest Lecture programs on storytelling to her early elementary education classes. Bartering is a great tool.
The space was confirmed within three days, but I was already beyond that. Using Facebook as the networking tool it should be (don’t poke me, and I will not join your Farmville, etc. You can friend me, and I do play Mafia Wars, but that’s another story). Before the weekend was over, I had four storytellers in place: Jonathan Kruk, Ron Sopyla, Melissa Chernowetz and myself. Within a week, I was able to add Bernie Libster and Katie Issel Pitre. So…six storytellers, a location and time set, and Melissa was already working on our flier/program cover.
And, before anyone asks, yes, all the storytellers donated their time to this event. Blessings indeed.
My job now was to market this to the full extent that I could with the time restrictions before me. I created an event page on Facebook and made everyone involved an administrator, so they could invite their contact lists. That was only the start. I posted information all over the place: on my LinkedIn account; posted on my two blogs and my website; joined both the World Storytelling Day organization and the Westchester Arts Council (so I could post the event there); sent out emails to non-Facebook users (yes, there are still many of those around); emailed the libraries in the immediate area; contacted Department Heads of colleges and universities that have Early Education & Theater courses; found other storytelling/literacy programs and sent them information; and I posted fliers here, there and everywhere.
What I couldn’t do was get anything into the newspapers, radio stations, local parent/kid magazines and papers, entertainment sites, etc. because of the time restraint. Most of them want a lead time of at least a month, with most wanting a full two months for a press release. I knew that going in, but I went on with it as I could. I found the same thing in trying to get some food and water donated from the local supermarkets. I could easily get something on letterhead from Sr St John, but, again, they wanted the donation request with six weeks lead in time.
The outcome? The weather (a beautiful day most would have spent outside) and other events worked against us. A small (28) but very enthusiastic and engaged audience came. We had a professional photographer come (Carol Sessler, a childhood friend) and take photos, some of which are attached.
Starting our program out with a silent Wish for Good Things for the people of Japan and other parts of the world where people are suffering, we went on. The storytellers were amazing, we had fun hearing the different stories, were engaged with the variety of styles of the tellers, laughed and just shared a wonderful space together. The commitment, professionalism and love that the group of storytellers brought made this day a real treasure.
This was a success, in our eyes, on so many levels. Some people would just fixate on the number of attendees as a negative. They were not in the room with us, surrounded by the audience who was totally with us, who laughed, ‘oohed’ and ‘ahhed’, listened deeply, and gave fully of themselves in this experience. Marketing wise, I know what I need to do “properly” for the next event. I say next event, for ALL the tellers want to do this together again.
So…from start to finish in twenty-five days. It can be done. I don’t look at it as the end. It was a great beginning that can easily continue, when you have the right mix. Kismet, cosmic synchronicity, destiny…it all needs to be there.
Any photo used should be credited to:
Carol Sessler: http://www.carolsessler.com/
Stuart Nager has been a professional storyteller since 1994, beginning with the improvisational storytelling troupe that he founded, The Brothers Grinn. Stuart has been a featured storyteller at many area festivals, has organized Storytelling Day celebrations in various NYC schools, and is a certified New York State Theatre Teacher (with a MA in Educational Theater and a MA in Oral Traditions). Stuart leads workshops and residencies in storytelling and creative drama as well as Professional Development programs.