Storytellers in Focus: Chancellor Gaffney
Chancellor Gaffney is an auditor for a Big Four accounting firm by day and a wrestler and storyteller by night. He has performed in Sucker For Love and on the second Tuesday stage. Although he doesn't have a background in performance, he loves performing and may have the ultimate strategy to defeat any and all aspects of stage fright
What brought you to SpeakeasyDC?
I found SpeakeasyDC when I was looking for creative outlets. Last December I auditioned for Sucker For Love two days after I found the SpeakeasyDC website. I read the detail and they said, “If you have a story about love, failed love, successful love, whatever, come and audition, we'd love to hear it.” How cool is that? Stephanie, said it's pretty rare to start with a big show and then go to the speakeasy main stage, but I ended up getting selected, so I guess I started out large! I love performing. At any type of performance and any time I'm in front of a crowd I feel very much alive. When I'm not doing it, I'm looking forward to the next time I get to go in front of an audience. The opportunity to have the spotlight on you--having to perform, I live for moments like that. To find SpeakeasyDC and be able to tell personal stories about myself and not feel outcast or estranged, in addition to hearing other people in this community as well, feels great. It's a lot of fun.
As a newcomer, what is the SpeakeasyDC community like?
They are so welcoming. I absolutely love the people who are involved with SpeakeasyDC. From the people who attend the shows, to the cast mates and the directors, it's a very welcoming community. I feel very at home. It's funny, I was the new kid on the block for the Sucker For Love show and almost everyone there had done a previous show of some sort. I remember some of the cast saying, “Wow you're pretty brave to be doing this for your first time in front of 700 people”, but I didn't think about it as being brave. I would've been more apprehensive, but my cast mates made me feel so comfortable. Stephanie directed both the shows I've done and she makes me feel very confident to tell a story in front of strangers. I have a very warm feeling about performance. I don't get nervous, I just get anxious to perform and I can't wait to get onstage.
What other kinds of events did you go to in DC before you found storytelling?
I went to a lot of sporting events in DC. I've seen plenty of Wizards games. I remember back when the World Wrestling Federation, now World Wrestling Entertainment, was at the Verizon Center. I grew up wrestling since elementary school and I still do open tournaments in the DC, Maryland and Virginia area. It's another opportunity for me to get up in front of an audience and feel very much alive. During senior year in high school, I won the state tournament for Maryland. My college, however, didn't have a wrestling team at all, and I began to really miss competing. Luckily, I was able to find out about open tournaments in the area from a former teammate of mine. I did grad-school and from there, straight into full-time work, and thought, “Wow, work is getting busy. I'm not able to compete in the open tournaments”, but I still had this intense need for a creative outlet. This is what led to finding SpeakeasyDC in the first place. I still wrestle, but stoytelling is definitely my other favorite activity outside of the 9 to 5.
What are the best/worst moments of storytelling?
I very much believe in practice, practice, practice, but sometimes there are things that happen that you just can't practice for. When you witness a speaker forget a line or pause, you think, “Oh no, they're stopping to think!”. Maybe they got a little nervous, and maybe you want them to find the words again, keep going or just ad-lib it. That can be nerve-racking. If it happens to you, you say to yourself, “This is my story, I should know whats happening next!”. The best moment I can think of from the storyteller side is hearing the audience react the way you they would react. Hearing laughter and feeling like it's a light moment with the audience is great. I feel calm and I can go into cruise control after I hear someone laugh. That leads to a special connection with the audience that takes both of us through my story together.
What are you’re performance aspirations with SpeakeasyDC?
As other members of the Speakeasy community probably hope for, I'd love to be part of a Top Shelf show. However, I just hope that I can keep performing in as many shows as I can. I just need to find a story that connects to the theme of the show. I get a rush every time I feel a story coming together during rehearsals. Then, of course, I get the same feeling at the performance itself, and when it's over, I think, “Man, I can't wait to do this again. What else can I say to keep going?”. I don't want it to end! I hope there are themes in 2015 that match something from my past. I want to be able to come back and make someone laugh or make someone think outside the box.
Any advice for aspiring storytellers?
For any first-timers or aspiring storytellers I highly recommend practice. Know your story. It's not just enough just to know the words. You have to understand what you were feeling and try to portray those feelings to the audience. Remember, only you know your story, no one else is going to know that it happened. Like I said, there are things you can't plan for. You might get a little nervous, you might pause, but it's important to remember to breathe. I think breathing is very underrated and I find it helps a lot. You take a deep breathe, take your time, relax, and have fun. People come to SpeakeasyDC shows because they're very welcoming. They're not going to pelt you with vegetables hahaha.