It’s always an incredible feeling when the things you learn about in class directly correspond with the things going on in your life at that particular moment, and that is exactly what the videos of Jad Abumrad did for me. The idea of storytelling has been at the forefront of my mind lately as I have been thinking about what I want to do with my life. Not only in terms of a career, but what I want to give the world as a creator.
My boyfriend and I discovered a theatre company called PigPen Theatre Co. and have absolutely fallen in love with their mission. They don’t just label themselves as traditional actors, but a “band of storytellers”. So, through the use of puppetry, sound, movement, and voice, they are able to transcend their audience into the world of the play and tell a story.
When Abumrad was talking about how storytellers and their audience must work collaboratively to co-imagine the world around them, it really resonated with me. (I can already tell I’m going to talk a lot about PigPen, so I would highly recommend you watch their TedxTalk I’ve linked HERE so what I’m saying makes sense) A performance, whether that is in person or over an audio source with an audience, will always vary based on the audience’s interaction. If people are willing to open their minds and engage themselves in whatever story is being told, then it will be much easier for the storyteller to get their point across because, as Abumrad and PigPen have both said, a story elicits an unspoken connection between the speaker and audience.
I also loved what Abumrad said about the fact that radio makes it feel like the storyteller is talking to you and only you. This brings an even closer connection between the speaker and the audience because it breaks down the walls of unfamiliarity.
I personally love when plays break down the fourth wall and speak directly to the audience because it makes me feel like I’m in their world just as much as they’re in mine. When actors ask questions to the audience and invites them to be a part of the story they’re creating, it allows the audience to feel needed and connected to the actors in a way they aren’t when they are only audience members.
Radio is similar to that concept because they are talking directly to their audience. Not as a large audience, but they are talking to every individual person listening on a personal, and sometimes vulnerable, level.
PigPen is also very receptive and inviting of their audience’s interaction which I think is a beautiful thing, and it is the kind of thing I would love to try to do, myself, as a creater or “maker” as it’s often called in the CDS department.
Voices are so unbelievebly powerful and can make people feel 1,000 different ways. However, the most powerful stories are even more than voice. I’m not going to dwell too much on visuals because radio doesn’t have visuals, and they have proven over the many years that visuals are not a requirement to be engaged in a story. Audio is one of the things that is so important in moving a story along. In fact, a lot of time the music or sounds in the back don’t even fully register to the listener because they’re so engaged in the story being told.
The sounds don’t have to be extremely interesting or high-tech, as theaters have proven time and time again that plays can be expertly achieved with minimal or no tech. My boyfriend is directing King Lear in the coming months and wants to do it entirely without any “technical” aspects. The sounds that the audience will hear will be made from instruments and people’s voices, connecting the audience to the world even more because they aren’t just hearing an audio recording playing from a speaker.
I also recently watched a very powerful TedTalk where a woman was talking about how people can only speak 250 words/minute, but they can hear 500 words/minute, making it difficult to concentrate. When audio is playing, even slightly, in the background of people talking or telling a story, it allows our minds to be filled with something that doesn’t distract us from the story, but keeps us even more engaged because it is now part of the story.
Moving onto the audio page…
I don’t have much knowledge of audio, to be completely honest. I know it is powerful, and I know how it can be used, but I’ve never been in a situation where I personally needed to arrange the audio. I always trusted it would be done for me because, especially as an actor, those elements are out of my control. So while I think I understand the importance of audio and how to use it effectively, I’ve never taken the time to learn how to use it or become more knowledgeable about the ins and outs of using it.
I think the most important thing I learned from the audio page were how many resources we have on campus. When I have free time (what’s that?) to explore those resources, I would love to try and become more knowledgeable about it. I started becoming increasingly interested in sound design after watching UMW Theatre’s new main stage production (GO SEE IT), Dead Man’s Cell Phone. We have a student sound designer who designed it and it was my favorite part of the play.
There is a part in the play where there is a cellphone ballet, and the characters are listening to people’s cellphone conversations from all over, and it’s beautiful. I don’t know how to describe it while doing it justice so I just highly, highly encourage you to see the show, especially since we are learning about audio. A perfect example of how audio helps storytelling.