by Ruth Stotter
Member, Producers & Organizers SIG
Having experienced the pleasure, despair and surprise from the experience of renting a half-dozen theatres and sponsoring dozens of storytelling evenings, here are some of my suggestions for those planning to produce storytelling events.
1) Instead of a set fee, offer a percentage of the take at the door. This way your guest storyteller will help you build an audience, and you will not lose money.
2) When negotiating the theatre rental cost, always ask, “What are the extra charges?” Do they charge extra for janitors, house managers, technicians, use of their box office for reservations? The last theatre I rented allowed only six light changes in the evening production, which included their dimming the house lights to begin the show and turning them on again at the end of the show. Paying for each time a spotlight was switched to side or center stage added considerably to my costs.
3) If you are using a microphone that is not being controlled by a sound person, keep in mind that some tellers may do fine on the sound test, but then begin to project loudly into a standing microphone during their performance – creating an uncomfortable audience. Unfortunately, once they are into the telling, it is very awkward to pull the microphone away. During the voice check, make sure they test the parameters of the microphone and consider whether it may be better not to use the microphone at all.
4) I have usually done well financially with a refreshment table. Putting out apple juice and cookies at a minimal expense, with a contribution basket, has always covered my costs of the refreshments and frequently produced a sizable profit.
5) Some tellers have limited repertoires. It is all right to ask “What stories will you be telling?” and make your own suggestions. A local teller told two stories at a recent theatre performance that over half the audience had heard six times before! If you have more than one teller, this will also insure they do not plan to tell the same story.
6) If your event features more than one teller, be clear on time allotments. One teller went fifteen minutes overtime, forcing other tellers to cut material. A signal that two or five minutes remain as well as a “your time is up” signal are highly recommended.
7) Review your contract with the theatre several times, highlighting what they expect from you. I was turned away at 5:30 PM from a theatre where a performance was scheduled, because I had forgotten the million dollar insurance policy required to rent theatre space in California. The theatre had not phoned to remind me that this was due. Fortunately, I was able to contact my insurance agent on her cell phone at 6:00 PM and the show went on.
Ruth Stotter M.A. is a professional storyteller and educator who has performed and taught workshops on four continents. She is currently chairperson of the American Folklore Society’s Folk Narrative Section and teaches Analyzing Folk and Fairytales, a class sponsored by the Dominican University Storytelling Program,. Ruth served as Director of the Dominican University Storytelling Program 1985-1999. She has an M.A. from Stanford University in Speech Pathology, an M.A. in Storytelling from Sonoma State University, and attended the University of California, Berkeley to obtain lifetime teaching credentials.
Ruth has received awards from the National Storytelling Association and the Bay Area Storytelling Association for her status as mentor and contributions to her community through storytelling. In 1999 she was awarded the Keables Chair of English by Iolani School in Honolulu, Hawaii. Ruth served four years on the Aesop Committee, sponsored by the Children’s Folklore Section of the American Folklore Society, selecting the best children’s books based on folklore. She is the author of You’re On!: 101 Tips to Improve Your Public Speaking Skills.