As part of a larger research project, I explored how storytelling has developed, spread, and been promoted in the state of Oklahoma in modern times.  The process raised many questions, offered many concerns and led to some thinking about storytelling perceptions, promotions, and prejudices. 
One of the primary challenges storytelling has is the misunderstanding people have about just what that means.

Common uses of the term includes:
  • Screenwriting
  • Novel Writing
  • Sharing a Business narrative
  • Reading a book to children
  • Telling a Story to children
  • Telling a Story to any age group

As a result storytellers often hear: "What are you reading to the kids?"  There are, however, other less obvious side effects of this misunderstanding.  These involve assumptions about the nature and value of storytelling in this wired in, hooked up and electronically hip world.
Some assumptions about storytellers include:
They are cowboys
They are old people
They are Ethnic (Native American, African-American, etc.)
They are always costumed
They are always 'crazy'
They have be active, noisy, and theatrical to connect with child audiences
They have to be theatrical to connect with adult audiences
Some assumptions seem to be:
  • Storytellers are not artists or craftspeople
  • Storytellers have limited appeal
  • Storytellers are old-fashioned
  • Storytellers are too 'country' and unsophisticated
  • Storytellers are not 'performers'
  • Storytellers are not communicators
  • Storytellers are not important
  • Storytellers are just for children
These lead to other questions or issues, such as:
  • If storytellers are not important - why are they relegated to an audience of children? Don't children deserve the best of the arts? What does this say about how we value children in society? 
  • How can storytelling be outdated? Is ballet? Opera? 
  • If music can be expressed across genres and styles - why not storytelling with its many styles from rustic raconteur to stylized presentations of great elegance and beauty?
  • Storytellers can a big, loud force on a large stage or a small, mesmerizing and powerful force in an intimate venue.  In any setting they are great communicators.
  • If storytelling is so unimportant - why is the term associated with so many other types of creative activity? (film, writing, etc.)
The State of Story in the State: Confused and facing an identity crisis.

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