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Rehearsals

February 21, 2018

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There are times when I will do almost ANYTHING to get out of a rehearsal. I’ll take out the garbage, do the laundry, cook a meal, clean out my email files, or –in desperation – even clean the refrigerator. Of course I understand it’s importance. And once I get started, nine times out of ten, I really do enjoy the work. But starting is the sticking point.

Now I believe it is the easiest thing in the world to tell a story – and the hardest to be a fine storyteller.” Ruth Sawyer

Ruth Sawyer, author of the iconic storytelling book, “The Way of the Storyteller” is right. It’s easy to tell a story; all of us do it – all the time. But to tell a story that is vivid and real; a story that rings true to an audience; that makes them laugh or cry or think – that is another thing altogether. When I watch and listen to a fine storyteller, it looks so easy. But I know about the weeks and months of work it took to make that story come alive.

To take it from the page, to create it again into living substance, this is the challenge… for the storyteller of today.” Sawyer

But why is it so hard to get started? I think it has something to do with momentum. Once you have launched into a rehearsal period, you are moving forward- toward a goal. It’s such a good feeling; we’re moving – at last! And as you work, you begin to get new insights into the story or your prospective audience. Then, you start noticing tiny improvements you hadn’t even thought about.. You discover new challenges and eagerly try out different strategies to solve them. But sometimes, things don’t go so well…. The goal eludes you or you get stuck. But, even then, you can look back and realize that you HAVE moved forward from where you began. Sometimes the goal changes. Suddenly you realize that the goal is really not where you want to be at all. But even then – you don’t go back to square one; you move on from that point.

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Rehearsals, as any performer can tell you, are like riding a roller-coaster. A good one fills you with confidence; yes! I can do this…. A bad one makes you wonder why you ever took up this line of work. But the momentum has been established – and slowly, almost inexorably, your program starts to jell. A story you were sure couldn’t be told in less than fifteen minutes suddenly takes ten. The order of the stories you have chosen finally starts to make sense. In reading through the written story for the umpteenth time, you finally realize why the main character laughs in that scene… duh, it was right there all the time! All of those little discoveries begin to add up.

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I have many quotes about storytelling and performing, – on notecards and pieces of paper -taped on my office door. The Ruth Sawyer quotes above are among them. I don’t read them every day- but, if they weren’t there, I would miss them. And every now and then, I really need one of them. When it comes to the subject of rehearsals, this is my favorite:

The legendary cellist, Pablo Casals, was asked why he continued to practice at age 90. Because I think I’m making progress,” he said.

That says it all….

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