Listen to a conversation between a student and a professor of her theater class.
Student:So, Professor Baker, about our next assignment you talked about in class.
Professor:Yes, this time you'll be in groups of three, each of you will have a chance to direct the other two in a short scene from a play you've chosen yourself.
Student:Right, and, well, I've been reading about story theater, and…
Professor:Ah, story theater, tell me about what you've read.
Student:Well, it's a form of theater where folk or fairy tales are acted out.It was…eh, introduced, by the director Paul Sills in the 1960s.In Sills's approach, an actor both narrates, and acts out a tale.So, like someone will appear on stage, and then will start narrating a tale, about…say a king, and then the same person will immediately switch to and start acting out the role of the king, with no props or scenery.
Professor:Sills, you know I actually saw his first story theater production in 1968, he did the fairy tale ‘the blue light'.
Student:Really, so whatever gave him the idea to produce that?
Professor:Well, as you know, back in the late 1960s, lots of people in the United States were disillusioned with the government.Sills was grappling with how to produce theater that was relevant in such times.Then he happened to read ‘the blue light', and he realized that it had just the message he wanted.
See, in the story, a man has lost all hope as a result of the unfortunate events in his life, completely turns his life around, with the help of a magical blue light. So,the blue light in the story symbolizes a way out of seemingly unsolvable human problems.And for Sills, that light symbolized an answer to the political turmoil in the US.
Student:But weren't you…um, audiences bother that the actors were performing on a bare stage?
Professor:Well, story theater is a departure from traditional dramatictheater with its realistic elaborate props and scenery, but Sills could make us see, say a big tall mountain through the facial expressions and body movements of the actors, and they're telling of the story.
We were all swept up, energized by such an innovative approach to theater, even if one or two of the critics weren't as enthusiastic.
Student:Cool, so, anyway.What I really wanted to ask, I'd love to try doing story theater for my project instead of just a scene from a traditional play.
Professor:Um, that's possible.A short tale can be about the same length as a single thing.Which fairy tale would you do?
Student:Actually, I was reading about another director of story theater, Rack Stevenson.You know, he produces plays based on folk tales as well.Maybe I could direct one of those.
Professor:Okay, yes, Rack Stevenson.Now, Stevenson's style's story theater is a little different from Sills's.He'll use simple props, a chair will represent a mountain, but the significant difference is with the narrator.The narrator will play only that role.Let's talk about why.