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    Raconteurs Storytelling

    Monday, 08 December 2014 10:49

    Written by Lise Hosein

    Everybody’s had the experience of sitting around the table with our family or friends and recounting an anecdote from our lives. It’s a skill we pick up without even knowing we’ve learned it - there’s a storyteller in all of us. But now imagine taking that same story and telling it to a crowd, while you’re spotlit on a stage. How would you tell it differently? And what might it reveal to you about why you’re telling that story?

    Raconteurs Storytelling is a monthly event co-founded and curated by Laura-Louise Tobin that encourages members of the public to recount their personal tales to a packed room. Every Raconteurs night has a theme and there are three acts to the night, each act with three or four storytellers. Some of these tales are personal, some funny, some tear-jerking, but what binds them is that at their core, they say something about how we feel about the world and ourselves, and how badly we want to express those sentiments to sympathetic ears. Take the story of Siva Vijenthira, who went on a bucolic winter walk with her mom and sisters in Gatineau Park and found themselves quite lost in the dark. Siva tells of her evening in the woods and how her frantic sister, waiting in the park’s parking lot, sent out a search party to find Siva and her mom (and I’m issuing a spoiler warning):

    On its surface, it’s a cute story about a mishap that (fortunately) didn’t end tragically – they made it out of the park just fine. But at its core, it’s also about Siva’s feelings about being from an immigrant family, and our perceptions of what it means to be “Canadian.” Coming from an immigrant family, when she was eight, Siva was fairly concerned with being seen as Canadian – or at least, not being summed up as not being Canadian. She read Anne of Green Gables, went to canoe camp, and felt as Canadian as the people who would ask her “where she was from,” based on her appearance.



    Siva’s night walk in the park gets at something we can all relate to – how do others see us? What sorts of things are we insecure about that affect the way we move through our day? In Siva’s case the story’s about multiculturalism, cultural identity, acceptance, but there are so many other issues that affect us all. Getting older. Being in love. Worrying about our jobs, or our families, or our health. And as Siva explained it to me, telling a story to a crowd can be the best way to make our individual thoughts or fears become relatable to everybody:



    When we relate, we come together. Raconteurs has quickly become a unifying force, bringing the audience and storytelling closer to share an experience, whether it’s something anxiety-provoking or hilarious. But how much courage do you actually need to get on stage to tell your story? Laura-Louise gave me the inside scoop on what it’s been like for people to face their public speaking fears:



    So what do you do if you want to get your epic saga on stage? First of all, make it true. Raconteur stories should be personal – it should have happened to you, the person telling it. Keep it around ten minutes long. And, Laura-Louise stresses, no notes. Telling the room about something that happened in your own life should leave room for mistakes, jokes, and a sense of immediacy that can’t come from reading off a paper. Perhaps most importantly, not every story needs a moral or an important message. These are about you and your life. As Siva (and many others) have found out, sometimes the ideas come out in the telling.

    If you want to go see Raconteurs or get on stage yourself, visit www.raconteurs.ca for more info. Or you can follow them on Twitter, at @raconteursTO. The next event is on December 10th at the TRANZAC (292 Brunswick Ave., just south of Bloor), and the theme is “Wildlife”.

    And you can watch Siva tell her story in its entirety here:

     



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