The Question that we must ask ourselves is if storytelling is so amazing why are more storytelling events not filled with sold out venues?
In today’s internet based world - community, human connection and personal narrative are highly valued and desperately needed in the United States. Modern performers who can successfully and repeatedly bring these values to the stage are loved by audiences everywhere. All of these values are part of a successful storytelling event
Inside the community of storytellers we use the word storytelling to describe what we do. I would suggest that the use of this word “Storytelling” to sell our art form to potential audiences of 1st time attendees outside of our community is both counterproductive and self-sabotaging. Successful storytelling is many things - from movies to plays or from novels to radio – a successful storyteller’s success is apparent and can cut across any medium.
The success of the use of storytelling has become so commonplace that we longer even see it. The art of Storytelling has been too successful and has spread too far… and it’s success has watered down it’s usefulness of the brand to the point of being worthless. Clearly what I do and what many people reading this do is storytelling. Clearly we are storytellers so why don’t we just call are selves that?
Here in the United States most Americans are introduction to a storyteller through television shows like Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow or if they are very lucky – children’s books and librarians. We are associated with moppets, wooden blocks and naptime. The National Storytelling Festival – amazing though it is only caters to 1% of 1% of 1% of the US population.
To market to the general population what Jay O’Callaghan, Judith Black, Mary Hamilton or Bil Lepp does as storytelling is hold one hand behind our back before the marketing match. We need to market the content not the medium. We need to market to the needs of the audience. Most of them have never heard of storytelling in the oral narrative form. They need to be educated with an amazing storytelling experience.
The term Storytelling is damaged branding and our insistence on using it n our marketing is counter productive and sabotaging to our goals of growing our audience.
I am not going to pretend that associating with theatre is the answer either. All forms of theater are suffering audience losses. I am not suggesting that we stop identifying as storytellers to people who have never met us. I am suggesting that storytelling, in particular oral narrative, is the answer to the world’s problem. That storytellers are keepers of a flame that can light the world.
When I speak to new audiences they all say the same thing. Wow – the world needs this how come I have never heard of it? They have never heard of us! The world needs us and they are looking for people to provide the healing they need. The world needs our stories. The world needs are ability to build community and personal connections. It’s time we started listening to our audience. It’s time for us to get to work serving the stories and the audiences.
What do you think? Do you believe that by describing storytellers as such there new audiences are turned off from exploring storytelling venues?