School of Story

Category Archives — School of Story

Mic Manual

There’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s, the same holds mostly true for performing at an Open Mic show. However, there are a number of ways to interact with the mic and an audience that are certain to help you make make more out of the whole experience.

Most people don’t regularly have an opportunity to speak before an audience. When the time comes, we begin to experience doubt in our ability to communicate. The doubt festers allowing clouds of fear to coalesce and follow us onto the stage. This is happens to everybody. The difference between beginners and more experienced performers is that those who have had more opportunities to perform simply have had more time to gain a better understanding of the dynamics of a stage performance. It’s like a language, or a bike, you get more comfortable with it once you spend more time on it. As a result, you begin to take more risk and all the sudden that Pad Kaprow Gai dish you have been ordering everyday for the past 3 months, from that same spot you eat at before you hop on the BTS, starts to get ordered less frequently as your vocabulary expands and you are able to communicate more effectively. Along the way there, those with more experience have picked up certain insights that help to develop practices that do away with all those clouds of fear and doubt that loom above.

Below is a small list of certain insights wrapped into what we’ve dubbed the MIC Manual, filled with tid bits of wisdom that most performers become privy to along their journey of honing their craft and developing their talent to become more effective communicators and prolific performers.

Its not about you

Sure, you wrote your piece, and yes, it was you who practiced it in the mirror a hundred times. Maybe it draws from your own personal experience. But if you’ve gotten behind that mic without suffocating the voice inside the says “I”, then the poem you came to recite will take a backseat to the jittery mess on the stage that’s worried about looking or sounding foolish. Most people who are overcome by fear of the stage, don’t realize that they have superficial fears about being on stage that have a root in the ego, so kill it. This section was going to be called “Kill your Self” because that’s what you need to do to.  Whoever that is, peaking into time-space from behind your two eyeballs, should be deceased by the time your foot steps onto the stage. That person is who brings fears and anxieties to the stage with them, that person won’t serve the one serving the poem. Take that mask off. Act as if you are finally home from a long day of school and have just removed your uniform.

The very moment you step off stage. that person will be back, but for now you need to take them out. Allow the piece you’ve written to occupy the stage AND your voice.

Breathe

Think of wind as the universe’s lubricant. When we jam up like a traffic on a Friday evening, it’s nothing a little bit of wind can’t fix up. Breathe it in. Before you utter a single word, take a drag of some good ole O2 to grease up your nerves so that your piece can slide of your tongue like a fresh oyster off its shell. Your words have no power without the wind that carries them, why wouldn’t you give them a full charge before letting them go? Inhale, deep.

Do NOT Apologize

EVER. Period.
It doesn’t matter that it’s a sad one, or an angry one, or a sappy one. Nobody cares that you don’t have your piece memorized yet. Do NOT Apologize to any one once you’ve stepped on that stage. Just don’t do it.

Just GO Already!

You don’t need to qualify or justify your piece with a preface that explains why it exists. Just let it out and let it be. Nobody came to the show for your behind-the-scenes documentary, we came for the finished product. Most people do not realize how much stage time they eat up explaining themselves before they share their piece. Those who do often end up using up more time to explain the piece than it takes for the actual poem or song to be performed. Along the way, they’ve burned through about 15 or so minutes that someone else who sign up could have used. Just GO Already!

Make Eye Contact

There is a hidden power that builds inside a speaker who can use their gaze to entice and entangle their audience into a web of words. Eyes do about 80% of the job when you are communicating anything. You’d be shocked to know how many performers take the stage, never to look their audience in the face and acknowledge the recipients of their message. We get it, you’re nervous but you’re reciting to the audience not at the audience, so keep that audience engaged, look them in the eye.

Just One

Perform just ONE piece. One song. One poem. ONE thing. It shows respect to the audience and to the performers who you will share the stage with.
The worst feeling in the world is having to explain to someone who has signed up to perform that there’s no more time left for their performance. It’s worse when the reason is because someone took the mic for a 10 minute joyride. We avoid this by performing one piece, keeping it below 5 minutes, and moving on so the next performer can take the stage with out feeling rushed, or worse, slighted. It lets everybody know that you appreciate the attention being given to you and that you are not going to make people regret having given it to you in the first place.

Nobody Knows

It happens to every. single. body. You’re on stage, halfway through your carefully crafted wordsauce performance, and you’ve come to a sudden and complete stop, like a deer caught in headlights. You find yourself in the precarious situation of drawing a blank and forgetting what to say next despite having rehearsed this one meticulously wringing out the hiccups like a well spun spin cycle. Alas, you still get caught off guard. Maybe it’s because this time you started to look at folks in the eye and one person caught you off guard. It happens. It happens to everyone. Those hiccups and stumbles are a natural part of breaking in a new piece. It never stops happening. You are guaranteed to mess up. But what nobody realizes is the simple fact that nobody knows.

You who are on stage, in the midst of delivery, are the only one who is likely aware of any blunder you commit. If the audience becomes aware of this, it’s always the case that you’ve allowed them to know it by telling everyone. Nobody knows your poem, or song, but you. Even if they’ve heard it before, nobody knows. Its usually during these force freestyle moments where we find that we come up with the most creative additions to a performance. Just breathe easy and go with flow till you’ve regained control. It’s okay, nobody knows.

Learn

Treat each and every time you go on stage as like a trial in a scientific experiment. Each time you go up to make use of the mic you should be running experiments like astronauts on a space walk. You aren’t there to just enjoy a killer view of the planet from low-Earth orbit, that’s only just one the perks of the job. Every time you’re up there is an opportunity to gain new insights about your piece, about people, about your Self… But it only works if that’s your intention. You have to want to gain those insights so as to further develop your piece, with the goal of improving it for the next time.

The real reason most of us tend to mess up or be overcome by fear when in front of an audience is because we make the whole thing about ourself and not about the words we are sharing. Go forth with the purpose of learning, and you forget to be fearful.

Thats it.

If your ready, join us at our next open mic show.

Jupiter

By NASA/JPL/University of Arizona [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Jupiter a.k.a Marduk a.k.a. Jove a.k.a. Zeus a.k.a. Bṛhaspati

The most massive planet in the solar system.

Jupiter is 11.3 times the size of earth and twice as massive as all the other planets combined. So many different cultures around the world designated this planet as King of the Heavens and the Earth. In English, we refer to the planet by the designation ascribed by the Romans. In Ancient Babylon, it’s name was Marduk. In Greece the planet was known as Zeus. Bṛhaspati is what you would call it in India. No matter when or where on Earth you found yourself, if you were pointing to Jupiter, everyone would understand that you are calling their attention to the Alpha and the Omega, the Keeper of Order, whose dominion was all and everything.

When characterizing the planet in his epic poem The Iliad, the ancient poet Homer said that all the other gods together could not pull him down, but he could pull them along with the Earth. Funny enough, this is actually scientifically accurate as Jupiter’s size and gravitational pull, second only to that of the Sun, has an effect on the orbits of each the planets in the solar system. Its gravitational force is also said to have played a crucial role in the formation of solar system during its early history and it is believed to attract and deflect space debris that could otherwise potentially bombard our home, the Earth. How’s that for the maintainer of order and the king of the realm?

Jupiter’s name in India is the root word for the Hindu Calendar’s designation for Thursday, or Thor’s Day, referring to the Lord of Lighting. It’s quite peculiar that, almost everywhere on Earth, this is how Jupiter was characterized especially given the fact that it wasn’t until we were able to closely observe the planet with modern telescopes that we knew that the giant spot, visible since the 1600’s, was a giant hurricane 3 times in size as the diameter of the the Earth! Almost every human culture developed to understand this planet as the symbol for the master of the universe, making it a core, if not central, figure in the mythologies found across our own.

 

 

Rite your Writing: Taking control of your writing habits

Human Behaviour is an interesting phenomena that manifests in as many variations and pattern as Earth has diversity in its life forms. Yet despite all the thousands of ways humans choose or are compelled to behave and move about in the world, there is generally one behaviour we all share that has tied all of humans together across cultures and across time: Ritual.

Ritual, though not exactly unique to humans, is as important to humanity’s development as consciousness, or language, or storytelling. It’s true that other life forms can be observed engaging in ritual mating practices or migration patterns. However human animal is the only animal on Earth that deliberately performs and employs ritual to achieve a specified aim or desired effect. Human civilizations have throughout history, developed their own series of deliberately timed rituals of all kinds to for the purpose of tying a group of people together to maintain their bond as a society, and to reveal the nature of the environment or universe it exists. This is done to ensure a cultural identity and to ensure its own longevity.

Civilizations pass down all sorts of wisdom from one generation to the next in the form of ritual exercises that are acted out by members of the society and that reflect a given Civilization’s world view. Be it a newborn child’s bris, an adolescents First Communion, a daily cycle of evenly spaced prayer, or an elder’s funeral, ritual not only acts as a waypoint marker on the Human animals journey across life and time, but it serves as a way of disseminating crucial knowledge that future generations will need to have in order to ensure a Civilization’s survival so it can begin to thrive. This is why most early civilizations tend to have a heavy reliance on a religious infrastructure because, throughout history, religious institutions have been providing humanity with the rituals and symbols needed for man to face and bear the struggle of being alive and staying that way whilst on this spinning wet rock crawling with danger in one of the most remote areas of the galaxy. Ritual is what has allowed humans crawl out of the woods, band together as a unit to ensure survival, and be disciplined enough to nurture tribes into empires. By studying the stars and learning the precise timing of seasonal shifts, humans began enacted rituals to punctuate when to plant crops, when to harvest, and when to stock up for the winters or droughts when no crops grew.

One ritual that has endured and transformed humanity in incalculable ways is writing. Once a skill reserved only for the most elite priests and kings, writing allowed humanity to preserve ideas and knowledge in ways that enabled one to communicate across time. The earliest book ever written, generated in Mesopotamia by Babylonian and Sumerian cultures, is The Epic of Gilgamesh. This epic poem served as the first written template for humanity to reference over the centuries as it generated myths and legends to explain its ever evolving system of beliefs and communicate its values. Ever since then, kings and emperors have used the written word to recount their heroic adventures and conquests, and propagandise their exploits to carry their reputation beyond the walls of their kingdoms, across lands, and across time.

Writing is the primary ritual practice of any king or queen. The Assyrian conquerer Sennacherib would send stone tablets filled with his writings that gave very detailed and equally gory descriptions of how he brought entire kingdoms to their knees so as to compel any presiding monarch to capitulate with out bloodshed. The Caesars of Rome very dutifully journaled their genocidal marches across the European continent as they systematically eliminated native Celtic, Gallic, and Germanic tribes to bolster their wealth and renown. The Books of the Old Testament where written by a successive line of Prophet Kings. Any look back at history shows that the word of the king is always the primary resource and any king who did not make their writing into a rite, was a king who history has nothing to say about.

It’s that simple.

So you who are a poet, an artist, a singer, a writer, if you die TODAY, what will history and humanity have available to begin to piece together and understand the universe you lived and existed in?

Now tell me again about how you can’t ever bring yourself to write anything so that I can ask, with a heavy dose of snark, what habits you have designed and incorporated into your daily life that make your writing into a rite in the same manner that religion has made prayer and meditation into a daily practice?

Whoa, what a concept!
YOU can DESIGN and dictate YOUR behaviour through RITUAL.

So rite your writing already!