I just completed a Halloween storytelling gig. It was a marathon performance. Four – 45 minute shows in one day. Knowing that you are going to be telling for 3 hours you really need to prepare not only the material, but your voice. Choice of stories and songs is always crucial to the preservation of your voice. Not to mention lots of water and Fisherman’s Friend (a throat lozenge that contains menthol). It also helped to use a microphone during my performance, so I didn’t have to push my voice to be very loud. I did the first two performances with my wireless microphone clipped to my shirt. The last two I did with a standing microphone. It had better quality, though didn’t allow me as much movement.
It is important to me to make sure that if I’m going to perform any stories that might scare anyone to give the audience a strategy to help prevent bad dreams and the like, especially if there are little children in the audience. I start every one of my Halloween type storytelling events by sharing a legend that I learned at the National Storytelling Festival from Kathryn Windham and Jackie Torrence. When going to bed at night take your shoes off and put them on the floor at the base of your bed one shoe facing away from the bed, the other facing towards the bed. I’ve been doing this for the past 25+ years of storytelling. It works. You’d be amazed at how many people that have heard me tell over the years come back to me and thank me for helping them out.
That is not to say that there haven’t been fun instances where my advice has been taken a little bit more than expected.
The first time I performed for Halloween, a four year old took my words to heart. That night she placed her shoes in front of everything. In addition to putting her shoes in front of her bed, she also put shoes in front of her fish tank and her dog’s bed. In the middle of the night she got up screaming, not because she was afraid for herself, but afraid that her parents had not put their shoes in front of their bed
At another performance when I explained that placing your shoes in front of your bed will keep you safe from things that scare you, one child in the audience asked, “Will it protect me from a fire?” I had to disillusion him that no it would not in fact keep him safe from a fire and he should definitely leave his house in that instance.
I find it quite interesting that whenever I go to bed and kick off my slippers or shoes, inevitably my shoes will fall next to each other facing in opposite directions. This is a good test for all you non-neat freaks out there. If you are used to kicking off your shoes, let me know which way they fall. Maybe the legend is true and you have been protected for all these years from scary things by your own lack of obsessive neatness.
Intros out of the way I need to plan what other stories and songs to do in my performances. In this case I had 4 grade level performances, Grade 2 at 9:00, Grade 3 at 10:00, Grade 4 at 11:00 and Grade 5 at 1:15. Each group had about 100 kids in them. Songs were easy. I’ve always used ‘The Cat Came Back’ for younger kids and ‘With her head tucked underneath her arm” (an Anne Boleyn song) with older students. Though those older students and teachers that have heard me before always request “The Cat Came Back”. You can read about that song at http://hdhstory.net/Storyblog/?p=53. Since retiring from teaching and writing my own songs, I’ve used my own ‘Halloween Song’ also. Time permitting I sometimes use ‘the Watermelon song’.
Stories are different. I do want to plan different stories for the different groups, with some overlap. Should I get hired again next year for the same school that makes it easier if they haven’t all heard the same stuff. I also have to be concerned about community values and how they might react to stories about the Devil or Bogey man, people being murdered, etc. I hate to use the word politically correct, but Halloween lends itself more to that. Luckily for me I knew this group. This is the same school that I taught in prior to retiring and that I use to practice new material. So things went well.
There are some stories that I tell, such as ‘Wiley and the Hairy Man’ that require me to have a gruff voice when I talk as the Hairy Man. There is no way that I could do ‘Wiley’ for all performances even though it would work for all of the groups that I was telling to. The plan was to wait until the later groups to tell the tale, which worked out fine. I could always have scrapped it for a different story if my voice was gone by that point.
There are a lot of stories that I’d like to tell, but still have not received permission to tell them from the authors of those poems and tales. This has always been an ongoing discussion/issue with all of the storytelling groups that I belong to both live and online. But that issue I’ll save for another day’s discourse.