Performer’s Spotlight - Gina Chirillo
Who is Story District? In an effort to learn a little about the kinds of people that make up Story District, we spoke to Gina Chirillo to learn a little about their experience with storytelling and Story District.
I've heard you've performed a story - did you take a storytelling class?
I performed in Story District's Out/Spoken show last year at the 9:30 Club. We performed the show twice more at a Capital Pride National Coming Out Day event and at the First Person Arts Festival in Philadelphia. This past month, I took Storytelling 101 and performed at the student showcase.
What first got you interested in storytelling?
I did speech and debate in high school and Model U.N. in college, so I've always liked public speaking and being in front of people. A friend told me about the pitch opportunity for Out/Spoken, and I felt like I had a story to tell that would be interesting to other people and provide a bit of closure for me, so I pitched and was lucky enough to be part of the show.
Do you enjoy performing in general? Or only specifically storytelling?
I do enjoy performing in general, but there's such a vulnerable, personal part of storytelling that makes it special. Plus, there's nothing like people laughing at your jokes! Did you do any performing before coming to Story District? Like I mentioned above, I did speech and debate in high school and Model U.N. in college, but nothing as deeply personal (or as much fun) as storytelling.
Did you change your story at all when telling it the larger audience?
Well, the audience at the Story District Out/Spoken show at the 9:30 Club was the largest, and it felt like it was the most warm, but I think that could be because of a lot of other factors. The microphone and sound at the venue for the National Coming Out Day event were really poor, so I don't know how well the audience could hear or understand not just me, but all of the storytellers. It was also an awkward set up, so it was harder to feel that connection with the audience. Performing at the 9:30 Club was definitely the best venue, and I think that made for the best audience reaction.
I changed my story after my original show not for the audience (like I said, the largest audience was the first audience), but I felt like my climax came too early and my ending was too long, so I tried to shorten it and tighten it a bit for the two other shows. I was happy about the changes.
What made you decide to take a class, after you’d already performed?
I mainly wanted to take it because I'd never had any storytelling experience before the first Out/Spoken show, so I wanted to learn the structure and techniques from the pros. I also feel like I told my best story first, so I needed something to help me get over my writer's block and back onto the stage. I needed help generating more ideas.
What were you hoping to learn, coming in to the class?
I feel really comfortable on stage and performing, so I was less interested in the delivery piece and more interested in the pieces about generating story ideas and then putting them into a structure that made sense and would connect with the audience.
Did you enjoy learning alongside other students?
I did enjoy learning alongside other students. It was fun to see their stories evolve and see how talented they are!
What do you think the most important part of telling a story is?
I think the most important part is being vulnerable and connecting with your audience. Story District audiences are warm, and so they will connect with you and that is the greatest feeling. Getting that audience reaction and knowing that you nailed it is awesome.