A Nanaimo-based storytellers’ collective is excited to celebrate its 15th season this year.
“For a storytelling group to stay in business for 15 years is amazing,” said Cindy Shantz, committee member for the Around Town Tellers. “We’re hoping to have little surprise gifts for some people – maybe tickets to the next Stories on Friday, that sort of thing.”
Shantz has been with the storytellers for 13 years, and claims the success of the Tellers is largely due to the people involved, the engaging program, and the group’s adaptability.
“In fact, we’re known – as most of our committee members are part of Storytellers of Canada – we are the most successful group of all of Canada,” she said.
As with every year, Around Town Tellers’ 15th season, starting early September and ending early June next year, will have a theme for each month.
The collective will hold its Stories on Friday sessions on the second Friday of every active month at the Unitarian Hall in Nanaimo, where tellers perform spoken pieces on stage.
The selected themes focus on open-ended ideas and common topics for each month.
“For example, for October, it’s ‘home and harvest,’” said Shantz. “And November, it’s ‘courage and sacrifice’ … And we always end in June with ‘humor,’” she said, and added that she’s looking particularly forward to December’s ‘perfect gift.’
According to Shantz, the organization always welcomes new members and encourages young people to take to the stage, as the group provides a very positive space.
Although props are not allowed while telling a story, since the art is through spoken performance, Shantz suggested subtle costumes could be permissible so long as it lends itself well to the story. For new tellers, she also suggested the optimal time to keep the audience’s attention is between eight to 15 minutes long. And during the performance, the group discourages notes or script reading, as the goal is to keep the audience engaged.
“It’s OK if you forget a line because you should’nt actually have it memorized like that … but you should know your story extremely well and be able to juggle it around,” Shantz said. “Storytelling is all about connection: connecting to your story, connecting to your audience, connecting to your soul … And to me, the best thing is afterwards, when someone walks up to me and says, ‘I had a similar experience.’ I love that.”
She also asked people to be mindful and respectful of topics such as religion, politics or using offensive language.
For those interested in learning how to tell a story, Shantz said the co-founder, Margaret Murphy, typically holds a course on the art once a year and that more information should be available once the season starts in a few weeks. They can also e-mail email@example.com for more information on becoming a storyteller.
Around Town Tellers recently returned to its in-person sessions and adapted to the “COVID world” by holding Stories on Friday over Zoom.
“We we’re still getting a fairly large audience, considering,” said Shantz, and added that while online performances lacked personal connection, it allowed them to reach people all over the world.
For their 15th season, the Around Town Tellers plan on holding in-person storytelling sessions at the Unitarian Hall, but will also integrate broadcasting the sessions online for people who might be uncomfortable going into public spaces.