Read Jeff's Q&A on READING TO KIDS
Storytellers are always chafing to ‘rise above’ the prevailing impression that, ‘Storytelling is just for KIDS’. We want to be taken SERIOUSLY as artists by ADULTS. I prefer to rephrase that truth as, ‘Storytelling is for KIDS OF ALL AGES.
I’m a professional performer who’s been shaped by children. I’m visual, noisy, use voices, interaction, shadow puppets sometimes and I make faces. We love each other and we laugh a lot. I respond to them within the telling. They know I’m controlling the environment and I'll keep the room focused. Short Attention TV kids? Hey- these are OUR KIDS! They’re our FUTURE! And they'll listen to me as long as I want to talk. There's no shortage of attention AT ALL.
On more days than I can count I’ve driven home from telling stories to kids pinching myself with GLEE asking “did I just have THAT MUCH FUN with two hundred kids? Didn’t we ALL ROAR LAUGHING together? Didn’t the room freeze? Wasn’t the silence SCREAMING with their attention?” For me, telling tales to kids is NOT a demeaning classification. I just wanted to say it (write it) for you to read. Seriously!
Children are honest, direct, and sincere. They’re very bright. They know who’s in front of them. They teach me things constantly. I listen to them as I tell and they tell me what works and what doesn’t. When kids love something they show it. They’re ALIVE and respond!
I love my CD ‘The Two Brothers’, a 73 minute musical roller-coaster spontaneous combustable adventure, a VERY FUN new skin on an old Brothers Grimm epic. Now I may not have paid much attention to that tale, but the kids were SO INTERESTED in it, insisting I continue telling it that I really started working it over with them. Pretty soon we REALLY had a JEWEL (it runs a solid hour solo. It’s not their lack of attention that keeps me from telling it more- more likely it’s a schedule that didn’t allow an uninterrupted hour.)
(Two Brothers CD)
”Well,’ you say. ‘He’s just a guy who loves to tell stories to kids”. Right.
In Hawaii, when I ask kids what kind of stories they want to hear they always cheer for spookies (which suits me fine!) Still, some are young and I really don’t want to traumatize them, so I have created a variety of stories which are suspenseful but end with a smile and a laugh (Silly ‘N Spooky CD). They are guaranteed home run gregarious fun producers with children.
I have music on ALL my Cds I’m totally fascinated with the gifted group of talented musicians on Maui (with piano wizard Les Adam in the center) who love playing to stories as much as I love having them. I am thrilled at how their soundscapes extend and color the narratives of both Spooky Tales and Children’s stories. I love the way the music spontaneously pushes around my words, how I loose control of tales I know very very well allowing surprising new life to spring up and out. You can hear this in the recordings. Feed your ears these delightfully fresh ‘events!’ (Duets: Tunes ‘n Talles article)
I also have had several years teaching the Honolulu Parks staff storytelling. In order to get these good-hearted servants of their communities to dare to do some ‘performing’ (a fairly unpopular notion to them) I’ve evolved some fun methods to build on success with small social exchanges. I also taught them as a day-long workshop several times as a summer school class throughout the 90s. Please take a look if you’re interested (Tell Well System)
The Hawaii Parent Magazine asked me a series of questions about children and storytelling which you may read at Storytelling Q & A.
LivingDelicious Storytelling Interview gave me a chance to share my ideas on storytelling, story listening, how the 'magic' works. It's a fun interview (29 minutes)