Tag Archives: storyteller

A Green Tailed Monkey Story

by Cynthia Wands

Artwork by Cynthia Wands

I loved this story by Karen Zacarias – it seems to resonate with my life right now.

As a writer, writing alone, and as an audience member, who doesn’t always feel included in what I’m watching onstage – I loved her story about moving about in the world, and feeling alone. 

Recently I met some friends of friends, through our early theater careers, and we traded names like collected baseball cards. We talked about actors and their personal lives and relationships and gossip from decades ago like it was a soap opera happening now.

It reminded me of how attached I’ve become to stories of the past – and how my writing tends to gravitate to some of my own mythology.

What I love about this Ted Talk – is that Karen Zacarias is not a great storyteller. She’s nervous, trips over herself, loses a word and can’t quite keep the thread of the story going.  But she’s a writer, not an actor, so there’s an authenticity that’s so heartfelt. 

I was glad to find this story today.

The Green Tailed Monkey Story by Karen Zacarias

If We Believe…

As a storyteller, when I create the worlds for my stories, I must believe them to be real worlds.  If I believe it, the audience will believe it. If I believe it, my characters will know I believe it and they will talk; they will tell me their secrets and show me their hearts. We can sit a spell and work it out on the page.  We can see what the end will be…  We can find a way of telling the truth about things considered intangible/ethereal/surreal/too terrible to speak of/so hush-hush, the revealing can blow the mind. As a storyteller, I have to be open to conversations with the truth – whatever that truth is…  I have to be brave enough to share it… and let the chips fall where they may…

The singer, Brandy.  I watched an interview with Brandy “Behind the Music” where she mentioned one of her albums that didn’t do too well.  She said she was supposed to be “sexy” then she revealed, “I didn’t believe it. And, if I didn’t believe it why would you?”  I remember that album of which she spoke and I remember thinking, “What is she doing?  Why doesn’t she just be herself and sing?”  I did not buy that album – her voice was different – her sound was off.  And, I love me some Brandy; I think that her gift is phenomenal.  I love the deep colors in her voice – how one can feel the graininess of the “Shekinah Glory” in the tone, and hear the octaves rising and falling like a breeze on a warm day, telling stories in flats and sharps like nobody’s business. I’ve been missing that sound until recently when Brandy teamed with Monica on a song “It All Belongs To Me”.  Hearing the first notes, it’s easy to see, “She’s back!” You can best be sure she is not trying to be sexy, she just is and that voice…she is definitely telling a story that she believes and that makes me want to hear it…

As artists/storytellers/writers/painters/sculptors/singers/dancers, we must stay true to our authentic selves striving always to the perfecting of the gift as we translate it through our vessels.  We must strive to stay on course and learn to get back on course should we ever lose our way.  I am convinced that sometimes the best part of the story is how it is filtered through the artist.  If we don’t believe in ourselves and what we have to say and how we say it, is it fair to expect anyone else to believe in us?  We are different for a reason, unalike to serve a purpose, not-the-same because being the same was never the point.  It’s the collective sound of harmony in the many voices of a choir that makes it a choir, the collective sound of the woodwind, brass, string and percussion instruments that make up an orchestra and that collectiveness facilitates a symphony; and it’s the collective sound of a people that make its culture.  If we are listening, we know that all the parts are needed to give a true reflection of the sound of our times.  We must continue to believe and act accordingly.

Believing involves more than the worlds we are trying to create, it also involves the world we are in – the here and now – and the pieces that inevitably we leave behind.

Knowing Your Place and Your Story…

Most of my life, people have tried to put me in a place.  This place is usually wherever they think I should be based on who they think I am.  In my quest to know myself and to know my voice as a storyteller, I have had to make it a point to stay true to who I know myself to be.  Round pegs don’t fit into square holes; square blocks don’t fit into round holes, nor, do 41-inch hips fit into a size 4 pair of pants.  Tried it.  You might get in them by some miracle but you aren’t getting out of them without a fight or a pair of good cutting shears.  Lost a favorite pair of jeans that way…oh, the memories…I had purchased them when I was stationed in Germany, they were black and had straight legs, and – I digress.  I was stuck in them for two days, thank God for undies that snap.  There is nothing like a jolt of reality to make you pay attention to what happens when things don’t fit which is why one must know one’s own place in this world.  The wrong influence can send you off on a wild goose chase or land you in a pair of pants that you have outgrown.  Growing, in itself, is not a bad thing but ill-fitted clothing can be a hot mess.  Knowing yourself as an artist will help you navigate the waters no matter what changes around you.

Some years ago, I attended a conference where the playwrights were assigned directors to direct the reading of their pieces.  One of the playwrights at the conference got a director who chopped her 20 minute scene up so bad; we weren’t able to give her any feedback on her original scene.  The whole purpose for the playwrights to attend the conference was to hear their work read.  I had to stop the same director from adding lines that did not belong into my 20 minute piece.  I explained to this director that I wanted to hear what I had written; if, after hearing it read, I wanted to change something, it would be my choice.  I knew my piece.  I knew what I had written and why and I wanted to hear it as written; I also knew my rights as a playwright (see Dramatists Guild Bill of Rights http://www.dramatistsguild.com/files/DGBillofRights.pdf) so, I spoke up – not only to the director but also to the conference runners in the “after conference” survey.  The magic that is supposed to happen when a piece has the right director is something to aim for (I’ve had it and oh, the ride is rich and full of surprises, confirmations, and just out and out joyous moments.).  Twenty minutes isn’t a lot of time; it wasn’t a showcase on directing though a reading done well does just that, it was a snippet of a play read for the playwright’s benefit.  From my 20 minutes, I was able to tell that the audience liked my story and wanted to hear more which let me know I was on the right track.  I asked the other playwright why she allowed the director to move things around in her piece (which even with the disjointing of the scene we could tell she was an excellent writer, we just didn’t know what her story was supposed to be about); she said she didn’t know she could stop the director from making changes.  I told her to join the Dramatists Guild www.dramatistsguild.com .  Information is liberating. 

As a playwright, collaboration with other theater artists will enter the process; it is a given.  Part of what makes theater so powerful is the collective gifting of the playwrights, directors, actors, set designers, costumers, lighting and sound techs, etc. who all add to the theater experience.  Just last August, I had a play read in North Carolina.  The group of actors and director who came together to breathe life into my words were so phenomenal.  A character thought to be unnecessary (by panel members) at a previous reading proved to be quite necessary in this one.  The director understood the character.  The director, also, knew how to pull this character out of the actress portraying the character.  The actress knew her craft and knew how to stretch…  Where I was unable to hear the true voice at the previous reading, I was blown away at the second one.  I had suspected that Indigo had something to say and am eternally grateful to the actress, Antonia McCain, who gave Indigo her moments.  I am, also, grateful to the director, Melinda J. Morais, and all of the other actors and actresses who contributed to that reading for list see http://ladybyrdcreations.com/byrd_sightings.  I could hear the harmony building from page to voice, hinting at the stage…

The quest for harmony is an intricate part of what I do when I create.  I try, with each play, to access the artists circle – a place, my place, where all things are equal.  There is neither male nor female in my artists circle – only songs of the soul and rhythms of the spirit – and that circle is sacred.  If I did not know what my place/purpose is, I would never be able to regulate where I should be at any given time.  My journey would be undefined.  I would not know which stories are mine to tell and which ones are for some other writer.  Knowing my place in the artists circle helps me stay focused on keeping the “waste of time factor out of the equation – out of the place where stories are born…