"Year of the Adopted Family" book release

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Auditions: Judging Beyond the Story

Listening to the stories at auditions energize me . . .until it comes to judging them. Certain elements are obvious to note such as the story launch, voice, body language, word choice, and story closure.

The story performance, though important, is only part of the storytelling audition process.

The teller on and off the stage inspire other elements to consider such as:
  1. Audience Connection
  2. Stage Presence
  3. Respect the Committee

Audience Connection
While I am often on the judging side of storytelling, at times I am the one being judged. Several contests and auditions abound in my state.

During one particular contest, the judging committee announced my scores for the different categories. I had scored high, though my Audience Connection number was average. I was not surprised. It happened to be a story that I wrote, which then could lead me to sound frozen.

The story probably would have sounded the same with that audience than if there was no one else in the area.

From that experience, the following questions come to mind about Audience Connection:
  • Rather than a staged performance, does the teller give the feeling of talking with the audience? This does not mean direct audience participation, though this technique may be used.
  • Even if the piece is memorized, does the teller still seem to have a rapport with the audience?
  • Is the teller willing to be flexible depending on the audience feedback?
At some contests or auditions, as much as 20 points out of 100 may be for Audience Connection. All other elements, by comparison, have 5-10 points.

Every ballot differs. Some ballots ignore Audience Connection as a category.

Stage Presence
Every time I perform, butterflies abound in my stomach. The trick with Stage Presence is to look as if no insects are having a party with the nerves.

When I first competed in storytelling as a sophomore in high school, sometimes the butterflies wanted to fly out. . .along with my lunch.

During one of the breaks at the Wisconsin finals with about 100 tellers, I slipped away to find an unused classroom with a wastebasket with my name on it. Thankfully, my composure has improved.

A storyteller could improve stage presence simply by breathing deep before getting out of the car or entering the building of the auditions.

Perhaps a pre-recorded motivational CD with your mix of favorite songs or quotes will boost the confidence.

If I need to be energized, I listen to “Dancing Queen”. For a more serene composure, I play “Daydream Believer”. As for a moving quote, I learned this from Don Doyle: “Behind you infinite power. Before you limitless possibilities. Why should you fear?”

Carol Esterreicher taught me the “Circle of Excellence”, a neuro-linguistic technique of picturing an imaginary circle wherein you perform the perfect performance in the perfect setting with the perfect audience. Then you transfer these images upon the actual performance.

Keep in mind that the audition starts as soon as the storyteller enters the room. The audition continues as the judging committee calls the storyteller to the stage. Each footstep, arm swing, and shoulder erectness communicates either fear or confidence.

When judging, I watch to see if the storyteller accepts the applause. Too many rush off or fail to soak in the appreciation from the audience. A professional is poised from beginning to end.

Respect the Committee
This may seem like a strange category. Unfortunately, I added this category for the rare individuals who. . .come off the wrong way.

Before Audition: There are times when storytellers have felt entitled to be part of an event. Performing is a privilege. Sometimes a polished teller is not invited to give a chance to less experienced tellers who need a stage to grow. Consider your words in speech, telephone, or email. Are you too confident in being chosen?

During Audition: Did you arrive on time if a time slot was reserved? Are you pleasant when you turn in your application? Does your tone sound flustered, impatient, or annoyed? If you are a walk-in, do you understand that you might need to wait a while based on the number who came to audition?

After Audition: If chosen to be part of the event, do you continue to have good manners towards any and all people involved with the event? If not chosen, do you keep your anger in check? I like to write a personal letter to each person not chosen to tell. I share the positive as well as what could be improved to possibly be chosen the next year. Much time and thought go into these letters.

The good news is that most people receive full points for the Respect the Committee category.

So be outstanding at the next audition. You could be a star.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Family Famine Series Site: http://www.familyfamine.com/

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