Sorry I am one day late with this. We got back from Florida yesterday and with laundry et all, my blog post took a back seat. But I don’t want you to miss the wisdom of my guest blogger or wait another week for it, so….
I meant to be only one day late, but then got caught up with deciding how to change my blog. I think I am going to concentrate on the writing and performing and do the occasional Wednesday food blog still–I love writing about food!!!
The occasional book review will be posted on Tuesday or Thursday as before, but now I need to decide–Monday or Friday for the blog update?
Since I am so behind on my posting of Kim Ellis’ wisdom on listening for those of us who spew out words on stage or page, I am going ahead and sending it in today.
So, Listen up! Listen Well!
Who she is
My name is Kim Ellis. Hi. I live in Concord, NC and work as a billing clerk in Charlotte, NC. I am also a part-time professional actress on all levels, mostly improvisation and storytelling at different places. I occasionally perform in plays in and around the Charlotte and Concord area. I hope to re-hone my skills soon with theater and film through classes because I took a long break from it with improv.
My theatrical experience started early in junior high when I was in an 8th grade harvest festival at school. I was the mummy in this little mini horror play and my binding came undone. I was scaring people anyway and thought, “Hey, I like this.” I wasn’t in my first play until 10th grade, however and that was Agatha Christie’s “The Uninvited Guest”. I played what was originally a male role-Jan Warwick. The applause was addictive. I was hooked! I found I liked performing different personalities and it appealed to my schizophrenic nature. (Just kidding) I liked how I could bring a character to life from the playwright’s vision. I didn’t understand completely how this all worked but I knew performing gave me a rush I couldn’t get anywhere else.
How she started in Performing
I started performing for improv venues when I auditioned and landed a role as a street performer for the Carolina Renaissance Festival. What I like about improv is that you can play any character in the moment. Nothing is the same. It is different every performance. Now, in this case it was the same character but different things happened to this character every weekend day. Take my Apothecary for instance. She could be extracting a tooth from a royal guardsman one moment and the next running a debate with the patrons as to whether to leech a person or just merely remove a vexing organ from the body. When I was on stage with the Pink Turtles or the Chuckleheads, audience suggestion dictated how my character would speak, move and act with my scene partner. It is never boring. My training in improv can be traced to my 15 years with the festival and Scott Pacitti’s workshops for the Turtles and Chuckleheads. I have now taken quite a few of those characters and have them as storytelling characters. Improvisation has taught me how to incorporate voice, dialect and movement into my stories. It brings the character off the page or from my own created stories and makes them three dimensional.
Diving into story performance
I became a story performer when I was invited to attend the Charlotte Storyteller’s Guild Meeting. At the time I was already performing my unicorn character, Beatrice at Carolina Renaissance Festival. I started telling unicorn tales at the meetings and thought this would be something I would like to do and I could take the stories to the festival as a way for my unicorn character to expand and I had a little success with it.
I would say that storytelling and improvisation are similar due to the nature of being in the moment. A story can be embellished differently every time you tell it. You might find on a story you have told needs a different twist, a connection to another event and it presents itself in such a way where the audience feels they are right there in the moment-a moment in a story’s history is replayed as if it is happening for the first time. Improv Theater is much the same way. An example would be a character you play every chance you get like my Chinese cleaning lady. I would recall her for a scene in one show where she is the center of a huge murder investigation or in another show where she falls in love with the sanitation guy. It depends upon the improv scene and audience suggestion. You tell a story with your scene.
Listening, the importance of!
Listening is so important in improvisation. Listening is the key to moving a scene forward. It dictates what will happen in the scene from moment to moment. Not listening to your scene partner creates mistrust and can crash a scene in a blink of an eye. What if your scene partner throws you a nugget like a quirk they have and you miss it because you have your own agenda-oh no, you can’t speak now because what I have planned for us is sooo much better! No, it is usually not and you make yourself look stupid and selfish. Make your scene partner look good by listening and reacting to what they say is good improv.
I think listening is important in the world of storytelling. In listening we develop skill. We learn what works and what doesn’t by our exposure to other tellers. As far as an audience goes we need the feedback. Andy most recently told us it was laughter for him. It acknowledges for him that they are listening and he is doing his job in delivering the story to others. Some of that is stopping and listening for laughter, a grunt, a sigh, a comment, etc. that would indicate the audience is enjoying themselves and being entertained by your story.
I am fairly new to this art form and I hope to learn more. Definitely my theatrical experience has helped me with the confidence and skill in delivery that I need.
Contact information for Kim
719 Summerlake Dr. SW, Concord, NC 28025
My storytelling characters: Chin Tang Tang (stories from Chinese fortune cookie fortunes), Fiona the Wise(Irish folk tales, fairy tales, ghost tales, Celtic legend, Aesop’s fables), Beatrice the Unicorn(uses Fiona’s tales and some from Fairy, her homeland), Kiliope Kilpatrick (Captain Kiliope’s girl pirate adventures) and I tell my own stories about my family and growing up in SC.