Saturday, July 23, 2016

Once Upon a Time in Maine

Recently I attended a storytelling event held at a popular restaurant that also houses a small theater. The show included six "live" storytellers, a reading of a story and two prerecorded pieces, one originally for radio and the other a short film, all for a six dollar entry fee. It was a fun evening despite the fact that only two of the tellers were truly entertaining; the others were boring and the prerecorded stuff was just so-so.

Storytelling predates writing.
Storytelling, an ancient art which predates writing, is like singing or stand-up comedy, the performer baring his or her soul for your consideration, only it's done with the spoken word and no punchlines. There's a beginning, a middle and an end, and your reward for listening is the so-called "moral of the story," a bit of universal wisdom you can use to better yourself. To state it more formally, as is done in Wikipedia: "First is The Setup, describing the Hero's world before the adventure starts. Second is The Confrontation, the Hero's world turned upside down. Third, The Resolution, wherein the Hero survives but is transformed in some way." Apparently this particular crop of Millennials had changed the rules, since only one of them told a story in the traditional sense, and even he forgot to inject it with meaning for anyone but himself. Somewhat disappointed, I chalked it up to generational differences; if you've heard their music you know what I mean.

But the next day I went for a haircut at my new favorite place, the At Last Salon in Brunswick, Maine. Once again the fabulous Denise worked her magic and once again I floated home with a smile on my face instead of sobbing all the way, my traditional post-haircut reaction for most of my life. Denise is a hard-core Millennial with the requisite tattoos and body piercings to prove it. As she cut my hair and threw in some blond highlights she spun several personal stories that had me riveted. One was about an accident she suffered on her motorcycle years ago when she unavoidably hit and killed a deer, her eyes tearing up as she recalled the incident. I too had a lump in my throat as she recounted the experience and realized her storytelling skills were far superior to those of the proclaimed tellers I had paid to see the night before. And hers were free -- not counting the cut and color of course.

Deer: It's what's for dinner.
Storytelling is certainly an acquired art, but so is listening. I suggest you practice the latter ardently since you never know where or when a good story will come your way, and what you'll learn from it. For example, did you know that if you kill a deer on the highway it's yours to take home? Denise demurred, but as she lay on the ground waiting for the ambulance to arrive, a passing Mainer in a pickup truck was happy to claim the carcass, no doubt planning to stock his freezer for the long winter ahead.

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