What’s on your gratitude list? Lately, when I think about what I’m grateful for, Zoom has been right up there in my top ten.

Zoom and storytelling are a surprisingly good fit — from the perspective of the audience member. No crowds, no traffic, no overpriced drinks. Most performances are free or “pay what you can.” Wear what you want, drink what you want, easily see and hear the performers, talk to your friends via chat, and just duck out if you’re bored.

Being a storytelling audience member has never been better, and there’s a lot of good storytelling out there. Our StoryMasters website has links to storytelling events on the Events page https://thestorymasters.org/events/ — check it out

MIyo Yamauchi

In just the last 30 days, I’ve watched seven fine storytelling concerts (three of them in the Bay Area and four locally). Miyo Yamauchi, Ashton Clarke and I were in some local shows and we were so grateful to see many of you in the audience. The Turbine Collective, Tales by the Sea, The Antidote, Strong Words, the Storytelling Association of California (SAC) and several public libraries put on powerful concerts, and I learned a ton by watching performers with different styles.

Let me tell you about one concert, the Strong Words showcase on July 29 that Miyo, Ashton and I appeared in with six classmates. We’d all taken a concentrated class from Larry Dean Harris and Marlene Nichols at Strong Words and this was the final night. I can’t speak for my fellow storytellers — Miyo always presents a calm and collected front, and Ashton’s a seasoned pro — but I was wondering why in hell I’d ever signed up for this nerve-wracking night.

Margaret Mitchell sent me an enormously helpful list of what she does to manage anxiety (see sidebar) and it was my lifeline.

Yes, StoryMasters, it’s true, Zoom is great for the audience, a little less great for the performer. I miss the vibe of a live audience, the thrill of getting laughs and applause. It’s a pain having to look at that little green dot over the camera, and choreography requires care.

Being on camera does let you use notes, if you’re crafty about it: just a few words, in big type, positioned directly under the camera lens. (Next time I am going to try punching a hole in the note card and taping it high on the computer, with the lens peeking through the hole.)

Zoom also lets you record yourself in rehearsal any number of times and play back the video to see exactly how you look and sound to your audience. Thank you, Zoom!

On the night of the showcase, we gathered early on Zoom to check audio and video and do a few stretches, and right at 7:00 pm Marlene let everyone in. It was a kick to see my friends flood into the site! Once Kim, our first speaker, started talking about “Barbie Mental Hospital” I found myself guffawing out loud (it’s okay, I was on mute) and my nerves calmed down.

How Does Margaret Mitchell Deal with Performance Anxiety?

Margaret says, “I don’t recommend alcohol or CBD because they may actually work. Then you’ll think the power to perform was in the substance instead of yourself.”

Here’s what she recommends to manage anxiety:

  • Practice as best you can
  • Focus on the speakers before you and learn what you can to improve your own performance
  • Do deep breathing and muscle relaxation exercises
  • Keep water and breath mints on hand in case of dry mouth
  • Believe you have something of value to say that the audience needs to hear
  • Know that the audience is pulling for you to succeed
  • Know that your past success is an indicator of your future success
Ashton Cynthia Clarke

Miyo was our third speaker, telling us about an economy scuba-diving trip to the Sea of Japan that combined rueful humor with lovely descriptions of her underwater experience. Ashton’s powerful story about her struggle to be a “submissive wife,” which ended up with her in jail, concentrated the audience’sattention. And then it was my turn.

Oh! — another good thing about Zoom is that you can practice singing scales before your speech and no one can hear you! I needed to loosen up my voice for my story, “Singin’ in the Choir” and I surprised myself by belting out spirituals like Aretha. My eight minutes flew by! Thank you for your compliments in chat — I loved reading them afterwards.

So, StoryMasters — now that you’ve gotten adept at Zooming, take the next step. Check out the Events page and watch some storytelling shows. When you feel ready, contact the hosts of your favorite shows, ask for an audition and tell your story. I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing you on Zoom soon!

Tina Tomiyama

Tina Tomiyama


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