Just visiting Surrey Docks Farm and in a hideous flash I was reminded of a disaster of gig I did there a VERY long time ago. It was 10pm, some sleepover event (details are mercifully erased from memory.) I recall it was storytelling with teens. In those long ago days I had only one “grown up” tale in my repertoire- they were not interested in it.
Cringe at the thought. But it wouldn’t happen now.
“Why not?” I asked myself. “Because I’ve got more stories to choose from- I could tell them something they loved….”
I thought some more “…But even then I don’t know if it would work. Unsupervised teens at 10pm? What was I thinking?!”
I realised the biggest thing I’ve done to change my success rate is change the way I prepare for performances.
I chat with the client. It can sometimes be a long chat! We discuss story choice and I find out everything I can about the audience. Deeply religious? They might not like a story about the devil! Audience for a 70th birthday? They won’t want aa story about death! Then I find out about the space. Is it quiet and comfortable without distractions? We think about time of day -even what people will have had to eat or drink. (This is very important at a party!) I find out if the audience are expecting a story- if they have “bought into the idea” (or will it be imposed on them?) If there are kids, will their grown up sit with them? will the adult listen too or will they be on their phone?
Thats when I find out that the client expects me to tell a story with toddlers in a playground full of tempting toys… or at a dinner party where guests are keen to drink, socialise and catch up with old friends… or in a city farm at midnight with some overexcited, unsupervised teenagers!
These situations (and others) can seem fine in the planning stage, but if you walk into them blind they can be a disaster. They must be MANAGED- with choice and length of story, with careful timing and focus… so that the storytelling has every chance to hit its mark and bring that magic that everyone wants. Thats why really careful planning is the best way NOT to have a disaster of a gig.
Hope that’s cleared that up.