Performer’s Spotlight - Evan Papp
Whenever we get the chance, we like to talk to some of our storytelling students and find out about their experiences in Storytelling 101. Here's Evan Papp's story:
What got you interested in Story District or storytelling in general?
Oral storytelling is one of the oldest forms of narrative expression and performance art that goes back to the Greek tradition of Homer and to the Griots of West Africa. So I am interested in learning the craft to communicate universal ideas in an intimate setting with an engaged audience.
What were your expectations, if you had any?
Five years ago I became interested in Story District when it was originally called Speakeasy but the timing for taking a class never worked out. As performance storytelling becoming more popular and mainstream with such programs like the Moth, I knew I wanted to try it out. When I saw Story District’s class schedule that emphasized practice and repetition capped with a live performance, I signed up and was fully satisfied with the class.
Did you have any prior experience with storytelling?
For the past five years, I’ve been spending a lot of time learning documentary filmmaking, which is often based on the storytelling arc. But my Story District class performance was the first time I got on stage to tell a personal story.
Do you enjoy performing in general? Or only specifically storytelling?
I’m a self taught musician and have played on a few stages over the years. And my day job in public affairs often requires me to get in front of a variety of audiences to communicate information, which requires some “performing” to keep folks interested. But I know the concept of “stage fright” very well when the nerves shake before going in front of an audience. Story District’s intro storytelling class was so appealing because it prepares you to get in front of an audience and tell a great story despite the shaky legs and throbbing heartbeat.
Did you receive any particularly good advice from your teachers?
Every class was filled with amazing feedback and instruction from John and Amy. There is a formula or framework that great stories are built on and this is clearly developed over the five classes. And the need for constant practice and iteration in front of mirror on a timer is essential. But what was so amazing was the feedback these seasoned instructors gave to each one of the participants throughout the training, on the spot, as we practiced during every class. The value of the class is undeniable.
Did you feel any different when you finished your last day of class?
Absolutely. Immediately afterwards the endorphins were pulsating and a physical sense of elation was undeniable. I feel more confident about the ability to get up in front of an audience, under the lights, and deliver a strong story. And now I’m polishing the story and looking for the next opportunity to get back on stage.
Do you think you can use any of your new skills in your everyday life?
Absolutely. Speaking articulately, coherently, and with command is a very bankable skill, especially when you find yourself in a town filled with sophists.
What is your process for writing a story?
My process is probably different than others. When I was younger, I just had these experiences I needed to get down on paper, regardless of whether they were even meaningful to anyone else. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started from the standpoint of what are the ideas I want to communicate, what is my intention getting in front of an audience and then I organize a narrative around message.
Of course you need to be entertaining as you perform, but Instead of identifying specific stories that I have experienced, I identify messages I want communicated. This helps me identify my story based on the audience and what story and message will most resonate. Performing is a big learning process and I’m sure my answer will continue to change over time.