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Actions speak louder than words in storytelling

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by November 26, 2016 General
Bengaluru: The art of storytelling is to first show the story, not just tell it. Facial expressions are gateways to words you never have to use, believes Jeff Gere who took storytelling enthusiasts through aerobics for the face at a workshop here.

On a cool, sunny Saturday morning, it first began with stretching facial muscles, clearing one’s voice and switching to story mode. Participants at the Rangoli Metro Art Center on MG Road explored the world of oral storytelling during the Bengaluru Storytelling (BeSt) Festival organized for the first time by the Bangalore Storytellers Society.

From teachers to students, doctors to engineers and community workers to parents who wanted to make storytelling fun, it was time well spent on Day 1 of the fest which witnessed two workshops – Jeff Gere’s In Your Face activities and Rosemarie Somaiah talking about adapting stories for different age groups.

“My jaws hurt because it’s been a long time since I used them to the fullest. Jeff’s workshop didn’t let us sit quiet for a minute — we were either laughing or doing the exercises,” said Divya R, a techie who loves telling stories to her year-old child. “The technique of using the face is so much more complex than we think. Even if I’m not able to adapt every detail of his lesson, most of it has definitely been put into my pocket (a phrase often used by Gere),” she added.

“The word ‘mask’ means persona. This persona is unique to each of us. If we have to change a mask’s expression, we do it through voice and movement. The way we use our face, voice, body and hands to create expressions that go beyond using words to tell a story,” said Jeff while his students made impressions of his many faces.

Margaret, a former school teacher, isn’t a performing story teller. But the idea of narrating stories to young ones has always been a passion. “I came here to learn more about storytelling. We all have stories and need to tell them the right way,” she said.

It isn’t hard for Rosemarie Somaiah to tell young pre-schoolers a story. It’s a cakewalk for her to share the same story with the Prime Minister of Singapore. It’s all about making a story relevant for people of different age groups – students, professionals, grandparents and so on.

“Last year when Singapore was celebrating 50 years of English Language Teaching, the commission wanted me to perform by telling a story. I insisted they tell me their stories which I translated into a poem. The best part was that teachers and members of the ministry of education found themselves in my poem even though it was an indirect reference,” recalled Somaiah.

Nishanth K, another participant, added, “While working with students, we often find it hard to keep them glued to our stories. Storytelling is becoming popular in schools as well as in homes for the sick and ailing. While there’s no right or wrong way of doing it, the festival is throwing up some amazing ideas.”

On Sunday, scores of Kannada storytellers, puppeteers and others from the society will conducting workshops at the Rangoli Metro Art Center, Cubbon Park Metro Station and Numa co-working space.

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