Thanks for the Interruption

Last week we opened the local (G-Guild) storytelling season with a guest teller: Adwoa Badoe. Need I say more? Need I say she was inspiring? Need I say she’s gracious and intelligent and graceful and wonderful? She is, you know.

She has a very active style of storytelling, and it involves the audience. As she explained, in her home town in Ghanna the telling can go on for hours or days. The audience often participates, partly so they can move and stay awake through a very long telling. It’s definitely not the “sit and quietly listen” style we do here.

For her first story, she taught us a few lines (in African), and when she said one line, we had to do the rest. Great fun! Then she taught us about interruptions. In that culture, it’s polite to yell out something like “Unbelievable!” The rest of the audience joins in with (and don’t quote me, because I was more interested in enjoying the evening than taking notes), “Unbelievable! Tell it well! Tell it true!” The teller acknowledges your disbelief, and the story continues.

Two extremely well-known and professional tellers there, from B-Guild. I’d been to guild meetings with them, and heard them tell, but schedules had been such that they’d never heard me tell. They were personal friends of Adwoa, and familiar with her style. This worked well, because most of our regular audience wasn’t comfortable yelling out “Unbelievable!” (at least until we’d seen it done a few times). (Believe it or not, I’m a wall-flower when listening. I prefer to listen without wondering if now is a good time to interrupt. That may change.)

B-Guild has many professional tellers. They get Canada Council grants to go into archives and record seniors’ stories and travel. There are also a few beginners, and a whole slew in between. It’s wonderful. Everyone gets a chance to tell and give feedback. We learn as much from giving and listening to feedback for others as for ourselves. Above all, they appreciate the story and want you to enjoy telling. Seriously — they go out of their way to make new tellers comfortable.

The G-Guild is mostly beginners and early professionals, although some retired professionals often come to the concerts, and even participate. Still fun, but I’m the third-most active of the regular tellers. (One is quasi-retired. One, while a great teller, doesn’t always follow the traditions I’ve learned from the other professionals.) I learn different things at G-Guild.

Back to the event.

It was the first concert of G-Guild’s season. Adwoa’s involved in several other types of art, so we expected many new audience members, and wanted to hook them. So, I chose one of my favourites, one I tell quite well: The Raj’s Tiger. I worked on the tiger’s voice with my voice teacher, and made a point of warming up very well.

And, you know what those professional tellers did? They interrupted me!

It was one of the best compliments I ever received. Thank you!

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