Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Narrarena

What is a narratorium? If we break it up into its two parts, “narra-“ and “-torium”, then we can assume that it is a place devoted to the art of storytelling; “narra-“ meaning a narrative or story, and “-torium” meaning an institution - a building devoted to a work or custom. I believe it’s safe to say that art’s importance is based on human interaction. Storytelling is the oldest art, as old as language itself. The original importance of the verbal story was to teach, but then that was lost since the printing press. People then thought they could learn everything from a book- a recorded story. Then there was less interest in taking care of the elderly of villages. Society really didn’t need them as a source of education, they had the library.

There are almost a hundred professional storytellers in the Portland area alone. There is a growing market of talented performers that tell stories, not exactly like an actor, but as a narrator that stays true to the original art of storytelling- to educate with themes and morals. They project their personalities verbally and physically to make a connection with the listener’s imagination to enhance the story’s purpose. The connection can be stronger than an author through a book; the human interaction is much more cohesive.

This narratorium needs to help revive the importance of storytelling. It needs to rejuvenate the close human interaction that was lost by the relationship between the author and the reader. A story is told verbally differently than through literature. The non-verbal communication is critical for the emotional connection with the story and the teller.

Everyone tells stories. When your friend asks you what happened, there needs to be some kind of story to follow. So, in a sense, everyone is a natural storyteller. However, most if not all the time, your audience is your friends and family. Your performance of the story is fluid and natural because of your comfort. What if you told a great story? What if you caught some of your friends or family members telling one of their friends your story? Eventually the story would get around, but probably not to that many people, and eventually it would die because not enough people knew the story to keep it alive. You could have kept the story alive if you went around telling strangers like a performer, but you, like most people, are too shy to tell random strangers and crowds your story.

This is the true need for a narratorium- to keep the story alive. It fulfills the need for the common shy person with a spectacular story. It would act as a machine that would receive your story, refine it with talented storytellers, and then perform the refined version of it to the public.

The average person with the great story would go slip into the back entrance where they would be greeted by a staff member at an info desk. This is where you would be assigned to a recording booth. These booths are more like small rooms to allow you and a couple friends that came with you for moral support to fit comfortably as they listen to you deliver your story.

Once the story is recorded, it is reviewed by the professional storytelling staff. They would be looking for the a few criteria. The story needs to be something that has to do with Portland in some way, as a setting or revealing something of Portland culture. The storytellers would also be looking at the quality of the story, if it reveals a phenomenon significant about being human, for example guilt or betrayal. The story really needs to be able to connect with what it means to be human. The storytellers would also look for the quality of the delivery. They want to see confidence in the teller so the story is more entertaining to watch. The storytellers would have a video editor to assist in editing the recording in order to enhance the delivery, if needed.

Once the recorded stories are pre-screened by the pro-tellers, they are then put on display in an outdoor space in the front of building, in plain site from Broadway. This outdoor space connecting with the public would allow them to watch any of the stories they want, and then vote on which one they liked the most. These stories, say ten or more, would be on display for close to a month to allow for a good number of votes.

The top two or three stories with the most votes would then go through the refinement process. To ensure that the story simply isn’t repeated by the pro-tellers and to allow them to put their creative input into the story, the pro-tellers would take one story or maybe two or three of the winning stories, and either combine them into a better story, or modify one, whatever it takes to make a great story even better. The abundant experience the pro-tellers have would definitely help to make the stories better.

The polished and well-rehearsed story would then be performed in front of an audience of 100 – 200 people. I’m picturing the performance hall of being a theater-type design with stadium seating in a semi-circle layout.

This Narratorium or Narrarena would help bring Portlanders together in their idea of what being a Portlander is all about. It will help keep stories about Portland alive, as well as, help keep people aware of the importance of storytelling- connecting with the true meaning of what it is to be human. This place would be vital for defining the culture of Portland.


tricky said...

I love the idea! Just one tweak on it- I think the person who originally told (& lived) the story should be the one who tells it in front of everyone. It gives the extra of being able to see the person- gives a feel of "who" better than anyone describing someone else can.

Dan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan said...

I guess that makes more sense. Then, instead of American Idol, it would be American Storyteller. I like it. Then it would be a real competition. I wonder if it would only have to be Portlanders, because that would greatly narrow down the selection of storytelling talent. Maybe storytellers from around the world come to test their talent. Should professional storytellers be able to compete, unlike American Idol?