The art of storytelling is easy to overlook, especially when good storytellers make it look easy. But even if you’ve experienced something enthralling and life-changing, you can easily downplay the thrills by giving a poor, longwinded delivery. If you’re not careful, tangents can take listeners to snoozeville.
But that was far from the case last Tuesday, March 7 when I attended The Moth “Eyewitness” at the Scottish Rite Temple. The two-hour story telling event was hosted by The Moth, a New York-based story telling non-profit that selects each city’s best storytellers throughout its tour. It featured esteemed figures in the community including folklorico dancer and educator Rosa Guerrero, KFOX anchor Robert Holguin and world champion bull rider Richard Neale “Tuff” Hedeman. They were joined by some out-of-towners, who added a great variety to the mix.
With each story, it felt as if only 5 minutes passed, and the speaker was done. I don’t think I was the only one who felt that way, because a good amount of people crowded around the storytellers right when the event ended.
There were common themes of how our culture plays into our experience – whether that’s through hardships or triumphs. As a child, Guerrero was shamed by some teachers for speaking Spanish in school, and in turn, she grew up to be a dauntless, embracing educator who wears her heritage like a badge of honor.
Another story that stood out to me came from Colombian native Martha Ruiz-Perilla, who worked in the dental hygiene field when she was held at gun point by a guerrilla group leader who commanded that she take care of his child’s abscess. I could visualize every tense moment in her story as if I was watching a movie.
I left the Scottish Rite Temple feeling inspired and grateful for my own journey.
Fast forward to Saturday when I attended the Las Cruces International Film Festival’s free panel discussion on comedy (pictured above). The panelists included Johnny Galecki of “The Big Bang Theory” and “Roseanne,” NMSU alumnus Don Foster, who did some writing and producing for the same two shows, screenwriter-director Deborah Kaplan (“Can’t Hardly Wait,” “Leap Year”) and costume designer Mary T. Quigley (“Big Bang Theory,” “Roseanne,” and “Two and a Half Men”).
Inspiration continued to highlight my week thanks to the discussion. Here are some great takeaways I got from them about creativity, great storytelling and life in general:
1. Deborah Kaplan: Sit in the room with your characters. Seriously. Have conversations with them, imagine what they would be eating with you and how they’d react to things, and you’ll find authenticity and dimension in each person you create in your stories.
2. Don Foster: A professional writer is a writer who didn’t quit. You only get better with every project you complete, whether it’s a bad draft or not. On a side note, his level of energy amazed me and was a reminder that you can be in a field for a long time without losing that spark.
3. Mary T. Quigley: The little things matter, such as what lead characters wear in movies and TV shows. Case in point? The styles Mary established for the main characters in “Big Bang Theory.” As Don pointed out, you could crop in to where you only see their torsos in a photo and still know who is who. Their outfits and the evolution of their outfits gave insight into their personalities and whether there was a shift or not.
4. Johnny Galecki: Find an external drive – something outside of your career that allows you to explore other passions. If you stick to one thing, you’ll go crazy or lose interest. Also, 50 percent of the things that stress you out today, you most likely won’t remember two weeks from now, so don’t get caught up in feelings that don’t serve you.