What has happened to the art of oral storytelling? Portland Story Theater has the answer. In its upcoming solo performance festival, Singlehandedly, performers have their stories in their heads and most of them are never written out.
What has happened to the art of oral storytelling? Portland Story Theater has the answer. In its upcoming solo performance festival, Singlehandedly, performers have their stories in their heads and most of them are never written out. There are nine performers in the solo shows who get an hour each on stage, and two perform every night. On May 14, the night of the StorySLAM, there are eight artists who spin their tales for 10 minutes apiece.
Lynne Duddy, one of the founders of Portland Story Theater, said that this year’s theme is finding a “sense of place.” This means different things to all involved. Penny Walter, the puppeteer of the group, performed her set last Saturday using a multitude of props, music and puppets to tell the story of her childhood and her career. Last weekend she even smashed a guitar onstage, to the great delight of the crowd, receiving a standing ovation after her performance.
Taru Sinclair, a classically trained actress from the United Kingdom, takes an entirely different route with her routine.
“It was a process of distillation,” Sinclair said. “I had to fit my stories into a framework that had a beginning, middle and end that made sense, and let the stories tell me the meaning. I’m still finding that meaning.”
Her hour-long presentation started with 11 hours worth of material that she eventually edited down. Sinclair has performed in Portland before in a critically acclaimed one-woman show called Man to Man.
The performances, which are all personal narratives, are much different to perform than a more traditional role on stage.
“It’s like you’re naked,” Duddy said. “There’s nowhere to hide. You have to commit and show your heart. The audience will know if you’re faking it.”
Walter agreed, admitting that acting in the show is much like improv theater, as the story will change with the audience.
“If a joke works for three audiences and not for the fourth, you have to change how you’re telling the tale because you aren’t going to pause for laughs,” Walter said.
Duddy considers the show to be the performer’s gift to the audience and that much of the show will break the “fourth wall” between the actors onstage and the people in the crowd.
“Part of our mission is to give everyone their own voice,” Duddy said. “Everyone has their way of telling their story.”
Portland Story Theater
1847 E Burnside
April 30, May 1, 7, 8;