“I see the arts in general and storytelling in particular as extensions of animal play. Play helps animals refine key behavior that they can try out in relatively safe circumstances before they try it out in the wild. Because it’s an advantage to do this, to try these things out in safe circumstances, over time evolution has selected to make it more and more pleasurable, more and more compulsive, and I think that’s what storytelling is like for us. Its compulsive.
-University of Aukland Professor Brian Boyd
A couple weeks back I found myself playing pool, or rather, weaving pool sticks through my legs like nunchucks with some fellow troupe members. We were whispering and giggling like schoolgirls in a cathedral, bouncing these clumsy sticks that rang around the complex’s common room walls like organ pipes. You may ask for the cause of our silly hushed game of “who could do the most intricate exchange of moving the stick from leg to hand without crashing it onto the thunderous ground.” And the answer would be because we were trying to be respectful of a couple doing an interview with someone via web chat less than two feet away and we are children. Disclaimer: there are multiple “conference rooms” they could have gone to conduct this interview in lieu of using the game room. For those of you reading who like me are either artists, musicians, theatre nerds and/or psych majors who got a degree in their field and now work in the service industry, “conference rooms” as they were described to me, are rooms big people use to do “big people things.” I’m personally inclined to say that I think it is a purgatory of sorts. Filled with power points, water that has been purposely carbonated without sugar, and people who post relentlessly to group chats. But the more important disclaimer is, that within this poorly conducted interview, the interviewer begin to relay a personal experience, his own storytelling of sorts. In which, he commenced by saying that he had a girlfriend once, in his professional lingo she was a “real fine Colombian girl. So you know.” And as the creator of the tv show Hoarders, Matt Chan says:
“When you’re creating your story one of the pieces of advice you hear is, start with what you know. If you’re trying to capture an audience, start with what they know.”
The interviewer began strong by attempting to create a real connection with his audience (the supremely professional couple in the game room) and if we remember, the interviewer/narrator had implied this was a previous relationship, not a current one. People tell or write stories with specific convictions, and sometimes that reason is loss. In the words of writer and Princeton University Professor Joyce Carol Oates:
"Thats one of the reasons that people write. That’s why I write. Out of loneliness and homesickness. You’re evoking that lost world.”
We can now relate to the narrator not only in our initial misogynistic similarities, but as a common human astray in a mossy maze of loss. Our narrator now goes on to say that things got “heated” and they got in the shower. Our hero goes to turn the water on and realizes he didn’t pay the water bill. Thus the end of the scene.
Upon eavesdropping the entirety of this tragic story, I was unsure which was worse, the story or the palpable dirt of discomfort during the interview. Nonetheless, it was a story, and I had been entranced the entire time. And the world is filled with stories children, good and horrific. Which is why we challenge ourselves: to jump in that scene, to try out for that thing, to eavesdrop a little- so we have stories worth writing, good and horrific. Why we read, write and educate ourselves to better tell those god-awful and sometimes distasteful stories and end up like this guy, telling inappropriate shower stories to a couple he’s interviewing who chose to do it in a billiards room full of giggling improvisers. Because that’s when you know you’ve made it.
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."