"Spotlight On Storytelling" By Meili Chao

We sit down with instructors, Julia Cotton and Devon Kodzis, to discuss Dallas Comedy House's new course Storytelling. A breathe of fresh air in a world of monotonous anecdotes and suffocating moments when you find yourself trapped listening to words fall out of a face hole that relay a story so horrifically dull that it contains no beginning, middle, end, plot, twist, sneeze, character, snack break or even a remnant of any act that could be mistaken for something significant or better yet something worth retelling. Storytelling is a course that breaks down the structure of what makes a good story and the transformative process that we all undergo in the day to day stories that make up our lives.

What exactly is the course Storytelling?

Devon: It's an opportunity for students to come in and learn how to tell a complete story with a funny twist or funny tone that's true and personal about their lives. 

Julia: What's funny in comedy comes from what happens in life. If you are able to put a mirror on yourself, the laughs are gonna come because we all come from the same.

Why do people take it? How does it benefit real life?

Julia Cotton and a Storytelling class. 

Julia Cotton and a Storytelling class. 

Devon: It really depends on the person. We run a gamut of individuals who want to learn how to communicate better in their everyday lives, even if it's just having better anecdotes to tell at parties. What attracts people and scares them a little bit is how personal it is. Your asking an audience to stop and accept who you really are. That's really scary but also amazing and rewarding, because they (audience) always do.

What are your favorite teaching moments?

Julia: So many good ones. I really like watching the students sitting and watching the story and having an emotional response or feedback to the person delivering the story. There's a lot of crying and laugh out loud moments. There was this student, he thought he was such a nerd and he didn't want to talk to people. He shared his story and said he finally understood what it was like to belong to a group. 

What is a typical class like?

Julia: We talk about story structure and help brainstorm ideas. You bring forth what you brainstormed then we see how it works with story structure. Is it personal, relatable enough, comfortable enough to read it on stage. We give performance notes. I encourage everybody to use the entire stage. To make it a performance as long as it fits in with the story. 

How does Storytelling translate over to Improv or Stand-Up?

Devon Kodzis telling a story onstage. 

Devon Kodzis telling a story onstage. 

Devon: It's incorporated in Stand-Up. It's pretty intimidating, but having elements where your telling bits from your life and small narratives in stand up really makes it a more personal set. It strengthens your voice and your confidence. In improv, I think its being really in touch with yourself and who you are and what's funny about you as a person, can help you be in touch with how you are on stage with partners. Storytelling can be similar in that way even though they are very different art forms. 

Who would you recommend Storytelling to?

Julia: Everybody! Whether you have performed before or not. It'll help you understand a lot about story structure. 

Devon: I think any person who is ready or not quite ready, but would like to be ready to look at themselves in their lives for humor and for growth and wants to be able to share that in a crowd of strangers. It's about communication. To embrace that part of you, even if you are afraid, step over that fear and stick a hand out to embrace another person. 

Will this course help me get better at reading bedtime stories to children?

Julia: It'll help you come up with stories to tell them if you choose to not read from the book. We talk about creating characters and performance nuggets.

Devon: I think so. I think having to think up and deliver anything is going to help you with that skill. Even when I was a nanny, reading bedtime stories was never my strength. It always got too weird. Too personal. 

Do you have a particular weird instance? 

Devon: The kids would just politely ask me to stop.

Will this course help me get better at telling lies? Get it? "Storytelling..."

Julia: (laughs) Huh, I don't know. Although we do talk about embellishing, but I guess it has the potential to since you're learning story structure. If you come up with a lie that you want to get across really well. 

Meili Chao is an improviser, stand-up comedian, and musician who lives in Denton with her cat, Miles Voldemort. She spends her spare time wearing off-the-shoulder tops in coffee shops "waiting to be discovered."

(Images: Facebook and FreePhotos.cc)