Friday, October 24, 2008

Story Props

I use props a lot in my stories, not all stories mind you, but I do think that they add to the story and storytelling. Three questions come to mind - why? what? and how?

Here's a why list:
• props can enrich and add layers to stories
• props suggest - characters, places, actions, cultures
• props can make storytelling easier and more enjoyable for teller and audience
• props are often light and fun
• they usually add variety and can add surprise

From my point of view, a prop is only worth using if it enhances the story or the telling. They are a bit like the pictures in the picture book, only partly mind you, because it is really the storytellers voice, language, expression etc that really creates pictures for audiences.

Well, first of all, my props have to fit into my prop box - my old tin trunk, which often functions as a prop itself. It becomes a pirates treasure chest very often, even if I don't tell a pirate story.

Next I prefer multi-functional props. One of my favourites is my whirly, a length of corrugated plastic pipe, which is usually the wind but there are so many stories, traditional and improvised, where the wind is useful. It's the wind blowing around the rigging in my pirate stories or the wind blowing around the mountain in 'Dragon Girl' or the wind blowing around Thomas Rhuag's cottage in 'The Seal Catcher'. It can be other things however. It becomes the sky god in 'Osebo the Leopard'. This is a really good example of the usefulness of a prop. I think it provides a better and more impressive description of a sky god than any words I might try.

One of the interesting thing about props is that, if they are any good, then they soon become multi-functional. My tambourine is a good example. It's perfect for Christmas stories especially any story where some one sings 'Jingle Bells'. It didn't take me long to find other uses for the tambourine. It makes a pretty good crash of waves or a splash.

Props are even more useful if they suggest things other than the obvious. An African drum suggests Africa and is Osebo the Leopards drum which the other animals try to get. Chinese bells or cymbals suggest China and make a really good start to a Chinese story. I stretch this to a Vietnamese story or a Tibetan (sorry I would if I told one) or an Indian story. I further stretch their use to suggest - 'some thing magical', 'the Fairy Queen' etc.

As loathe as I am to suggest a recipe, I going to suggest 'use sparingly' is an appropriate direction. I don't want to become any more of a 'props roadie' than I already am.

A second direction might be - 'the younger the audience the more useful they become'. This is particularly so because really young children might not follow all of your words but can find a prop like a train whistle and shaker accompanying a train story a lot of fun. They will also enjoy glove puppets especially with good sounds and songs.

A third direction might be - 'use them cleanly and efficiently'. Mucking around with props is really distracting. Put them down when you're not actually using them and pick them up cleanly when you do.

My Favourite Five
1) my tin trunk
2) my kookaburra (painted ply wood - thank you Suzanne Holman) so far only one story
3) blue shaker and wooden huon pine train whistle from Salamanca Markets
4) bag of hats and caps - 'Caps for Sale' and plenty more
5) my Djembe - so African, so much energy and fun - lots of stories

What's your Favourite Five list of props?

Daryll Bellingham

Monday, October 13, 2008

Storytelling Workshop - November

Story Skills and Telling Tales
a summer workshop at the Sussex Street Hall, West End

Just imagine if every single person told stories in interesting, entertaining ways - how much more fascinating our worlds would be.

Would you like to feel more relaxed, confident and alive telling stories?

Come along to 'Story Skills and Telling Tales' and improve your storytelling and story creating skills.

Daryll Bellingham has been earning a living through storytelling for over twenty years. Daryll's performed in kindergartens and schools, birthday parties for young and old, Corporate board rooms and Government House, storytelling festivals and early childhood conferences. He's lectured and run workshops and projects in universities and remote communities, churches and neighbourhood centres.

Over the last few years Daryll has been exploring how to adapt traditional oral storytelling skills to the new possibilities of Digital Stories, podcasting, blogging and story mapping.

This day long workshop will entertain and entrance you. You'll hear stories and participate in storytelling exercises designed to build on your existing skills. You'll learn how to learn a story and put the book down before you tell and how to create a brand new story that no one has ever heard before but most importantly you'll learn how to bring a story alive for any audience.

Do you need to bring anything? Well no, but if you do bring along an interesting personal photograph or an important object you will get even more out of the workshop. Please bring lunch to share, morning and afternoon tea will be provided.

Date Saturday, 15th November, 2008

Time 9:15 am for a 9:30 am start till 4:30 pm

Venue Sussex Street Hall, Sussex Street, West End (near corner of Vulture Street and Sussex Street)

Cost $100
Early Bird Discount $90 (booked & paid by 31st October)
Storytelling Guild Qld membership $75
Pensioners & Unemployed $75

Contact for Bookings or more Information - 07 3846 3135

Monday, October 06, 2008

Living Library

Well we got back from Deniliquin in time to work on the latest Brisbane City Council Living Library project that Karen has been helping to organise. This time it was at Garden City Branch Library in their community meeting room.

I find the Living Library concept quite brilliant. The whole idea is to create a safe place where you can listen to stories that you don't normally hear from people you don't normally meet.

This Living Library was relatively small to fit the size of the community meeting room. We had 10 living books on quite a range of topics available. There was someone speaking about her mental illness, another about being a heart recipient, somebody else about his conversion to Islam .......

The Living Library concept began in Denmark with the first event at the Roskilde Festival in 2000. Since then it has been spreading around the world. You can find their web site at . The first in Australia was initiated in Lismore and now both Brisbane City Council and Redlands Library Services have run them as well.

What can you do with your living book? Well you can't take them home or damage them. What you do is basically get comfortable and listen respectfully to your 'Books' story and ask questions. At the end of your borrowing period you say goodbye and thank you and maybe 'borrow another book' and listen to another fascinating story.

It's a quite unique opportunity to sit and listen to an Aboriginal Elder talking about growing up in Cherbourg or a young Muslim woman talking about head scarves or a transsexual person giving a really good run down on how she advocates for the community - all in the one safe place. Yes, I know, you see some of these sorts of stories on TV but these are real live people telling real live stories.

Next time hear about a Living Library stop and sit down for 40 minutes or so. Your life won't be the same ever again.