Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Way I See It #17

I was at Starbuck's the other day and had a coffee with my favorite "The Way I See It" quote to this point from Keith Olberman.."The world bursts at the seams with people ready to tell you you're not good enough. On occasion, some may be correct. But do not do their work for them. Seek any job; ask anyone out; pursue any goal. Don't take it personally when they say "no" - they may not be smart enough to say "yes."

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Spalding and the Art of Storytelling...

Visit your local bookstore or music retailer, and you’ll encounter the very small “spoken word” section somewhere near comedy. You’ll find anything from Martin Luther King’s greatest speeches to audio versions of some notable books to the non-musical performances of Henry Rollins. As a word geek, I’m usually on the lookout for something with great storytelling and eloquence. Most of the time, I am let down.

If you were to ask me who my favorite storyteller is, I would say without hesitation-- Spalding Gray. It has been roughly ten years since I’ve witnessed his word mastery at the old Goodman Theater in Chicago. But his work has had a profound impact on me. Picture a solitary man sitting at a table with a glass of water and some notes. This, I’m sure, does not sound like an interesting scenario. But Spalding had a virtuosic ability to tell a story with equal parts comedy and tragedy. Whether he described the “perfect moment,” his relationship with his live-in girlfriend, or becoming a father late in life, Spalding captivated his audiences. I was fortunate to see him twice and both times I walked out of his performances wishing I could tell a story half as good.

As an advanced member of Toastmasters, I will soon start a new manual of speeches – the Storytelling manual. I can honestly say that my time spent at Toastmasters and studying improv comedy at Players Workshop has helped me become a more comfortable, confident speaker. But I know I have room for improvement, especially when it comes to telling stories. Just as a starting quarterback needs to study game film to improve his play out on the field, I will attempt to become a confident, entertaining storyteller by watching and listening to Spalding in action. I am fortunate that I have a few copies of Spalding Gray’s work including Terrors of Pleasure, Monster in a Box and Swimming to Cambodia and I’ll be taking notes. To see an example of some of Spalding’s work, feel free to check the clip below from the "Swimming to Cambodia" movie.