Thursday, February 10, 2011
For the love of radio
I have a new friend. We were brought together by our mutual love of radio: Ira Glass, Stewart McLean, Radio Lab, Selected Shorts, Prairie Home Companion. (Well, as for the latter, I love it, he doesn't, what can I say.) The radio is gold. Audio candy. Once, in the quagmire of the college break up, I clung to the radio like a life raft. (A melodramatic simile for a melodramatic time, trust me.) One night, I was pacing my room thinking about how treacherous life was and wondering why god hated me. I was listening to a story about girls raised by wolves. Then, in the midst of all the self-imposed chaos in my brain, a thought floated through like a big cloud on a blue day: at least I have my radio. I'll always have the radio. At that exact moment, my radio died. It made a satisfying little pop! sound.
This prompted me to start my incredibly angst-y fiction blog, Then the radio died.
Last Tuesday, this new friend and I went together to the MothUP, the Seattle version of the radio show The Moth. It has nothing to do with live insects and everything to do with live storytelling. Every show is based around a theme, and people from the audience come up and perform personal stories based on that theme.
Most of the people who came up from the audience to tell stories were incredible story tellers. They had their story dialed. The theme of the evening was "courage." We both stood there, open mouthed at the things we heard: from being shot at in Afghanistan to being held up at gunpoint at the dildo store and everything in between.
In the middle of all this storytelling, I began to feel a slight discomfort creep up my spine. I bounced from foot to foot and tried to shake it off. Just stand here and listen, Melina, enjoy yourself. But the creeping feeling only intensified, coiled up my spine until a voice hissed at my eardrum from the inside. (Picture the big snake in Harry Potter.) You can do that, you know. You have stories.
The truth is, as much as I love listening to stories, I love telling stories even more.
Nah, I shouldn't. I haven't prepared one. I'm just going to drink this second beer....
Nope, sorry. If there's anything I'm completely incapable of, it's melting into the background. Before I knew it, I was climbing up onto the stage to tell a story I hadn't prepared. I had a good idea of what story to tell, but not the vaguest idea of how to tell it. There were a lot of people looking at me. I smiled at them. I had to stand on tip toes to reach the microphone. I was in the right place.
I don't know if it was the two Irish oatmeal stouts or my natural inclination to grab the spotlight and shove it over to my side of the room, but I told my story flawlessly. My style was conversational, not the splendid performance style of some of the others, but it worked.
It was a turning point. It was the first time I realized that I could take story telling out from behind the computer, that other people could set it all up and all I had to do was get up there and speak.
Story telling is so so so much easier (and much more fun) than writing (which can downright suck), because you can read the audience and work with them. If they laugh, keep going. If they're looking down at their Iphone, switch directions, fast. A good crowd is like a cheap shampoo that can be worked into a real lather. And nothing is more fun than a lathered up crowd.
My performance was nowhere near as talented as the others who spoke that night. But I would call it the beginning. Of something.