Alright, this is an easy one. I am always getting this question from budding tellers who are looking at the business end of storytelling as a veritable “pot of gold”.
The simple answer to the question of where are places to perform is: “Everywhere.”
Don’t worry I’ll elaborate.
You see, one of the issues with many people who get into any line of work, whether it is storytelling or plumbing, is that it may not be something that they are passionate about. If it is a passion, then this question is relatively easy to handle. It is easy to handle because, if storytelling is a passion, you will tell whenever and wherever the occasion presents itself.
Often when newer tellers come to me they are approaching me following the conclusion of a performance at some big theatre or concert hall and imagining that this is what I’m doing 24/7. Nothing could be further from the truth.
One of the things that they typically fail to realize is that I’ve been doing this for quite a number of years and that what is happening today is a culmination of things put into motion many years ago. It might be better if they could have been with me on some of the dusty, dirt filled back roads in Senegal or Gambia. It might help them to understand better if they were with me years ago when I had to wake up at 3am so that I could get a couple of hours of practice in on my harp before staggering into my 9 to 5.
Listen, if you truly desire to be a teller, a professional teller, then, and it really pains me to be the one to inform you of this, but you are probably going to have to visit alot of places and share a quite a number of stories for, dare I say the dreaded word: “Free!”
Oops, I think I just lost half of my readership.
There should be love in truth and truth in love. I have to be honest. If you have no track record or recognition of your skills, then how are you going to demand compensation? No one would think of walking into a law firm and saying, “I would like to be made partner today, on the hour, in your prestigious firm even though I know nothing about law.”
This sounds ludicrous doesn’t it? But this is how many people approach artistic professions we are considering engaging in. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but, there is no easy street, it doesn’t exist.
After you have spent some time honing your storytelling skills I would suggest you try your new repertoire out on family and friends. Ask them to be honest with you and take the criticism as constructive advice.
If you’re feeling extra brave, you may even volunteer for a local establishment (i.e. library, elder care facility, day-care facility, preschool, the list is endless).
Be honest with your own assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. Make plans and stick to them.
Another wonderful thing to do is find groups of tellers who may be work shopping their tales and join in. Trust me; there are more of these groups out there than you can shake a stick at. You will be surprised once you start inquiring.
Your period of assessment will be different from anyone else. We are all different. This is why I’m saying that you must be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses.
Once you feel that you’ve honed your skills to the point where you’re ready to get paid, then sit down and map out your business goals. I can’t stress this enough. If you are going to be a professional teller, about 25% of your time will be spent telling tales. The rest of your time you will be developing your skills and nurturing your business. I’ll go into more detail about business in another post but, suffice is to say, that you are indeed a business person as much as a teller of tales if you’ve chosen to do this as a profession.
Lastly, once you feel ready to conquer the world, do not limit yourself to venues which sponsor storytelling.
Remember this: words are universal; they have a home anywhere and everywhere. If you can imagine telling a story someplace then make a note of it. Figuring out how to monetize these ideas and locals, well, I’ll save that for another post. For now, this should give you plenty to think about.
“Dooni dooni kononi bè nyaga da.”