by Leeny Del Seamonds
“Live the Story!” That’s been my motto for 24+ years. This catchphrase is throughout my website and is part of my signature. I strive to apply it to my body of work as a performer and teaching artist.
As a story coach, I often observe new students concentrating so hard on saying the words they forget to “Live the Story.” How does one achieve this? When spoken word is brought to life, several performance skills come into play. “Standing in your setting,” applying motivated actions and gestures (“seeing is believing”), and developing palpable story characters are a few techniques I’d like to discuss.
It’s important to immerse yourself in the story and be in the moment while telling the tale. One way to do this is “stand in your setting” (another coined phrase of mine). Using imagination and research you’ve conducted to create the setting, place yourself in the middle of the village, jungle, kingdom, prairie, marketplace, kitchen, forest, or villa of your tale. As Narrator, determine where you are standing; and when you look around, you should “see” all the surroundings (buildings, trees, streams, animals, people, etc.) that your setting encompasses. Additionally, decide from which direction each character enters and exits a scene in the story.
As Narrator, when introducing an object or character to the audience, you must totally believe that the object or character exists. If you look at the character or pick up an object, the audience sees it too. In many ways, the object or character becomes as real to the audience as it is to the storyteller. That’s what I mean by “seeing is believing.” In mime, this is the first thing we are taught. If we create it, it becomes real. There also should be the same level of motivated believability in the actions and gestures we portray (running, climbing, pointing, jumping, etc.).
As storytellers, we often portray multiple characters in our stories. But we don’t want all our characters to look and sound the same. It’s essential to research, interpret, and develop distinguished, well-defined and clear-cut story characters by approaching each character as an actor would approach researching and developing a character in a play. And having an appropriate voice for each character is vital. The whole body plays a part in obtaining and maintaining healthy phonation, creating diverse vocal pitches and qualities, and crafting vivid, well-defined character voices. We use our bodies, hands and faces to enhance communication and frequently add mime, movement, gestures and vocal variety to portray believable characterizations. Determining the story character’s personality, motivation, physical characteristics, and how she moves and sounds are all part of “breathing life into story characters.” A digital recorder and mirror are valuable tools for character definition and comparing and contrasting multiple characters.
My journey into professional storytelling came through a stage door. Raised in a theatrical family who spoke story, I studied acting, improvisation, voice, dance and mime. Armed with a B.A. in Theatre/Performing Arts (minor in Directing), I moved to the Big Apple to make my mark. In between off (and off-off) Broadway gigs, I took additional classes in voice, acting, dance and mime. An actor never stops learning and growing in her craft/calling. We know that in order to hone performance skills, we value the significance of researching, rehearsing and refining our body of work. As a story performer, coach and director, one of my favorite things is working with others who desire to learn these skills…to Live the Story!
With a face and voice that launched a thousand characters, Leeny Del Seamonds, Master Story Performer™, is an internationally acclaimed performer, coach, and multi award-winning recording artist. Her animated, uplifting tales and tunes reflect her love of people and desire to embrace life to its fullest. From a prized television show to a village in China, to the Comix Club in NYC to the National Storytelling Festival and Cayman Islands International Festival, Leeny encourages listeners to rejoice in human and cultural diversity, inviting them to share in her Cuban-American sense of humor and joy of performing. With passion, fire and wit, Leeny’s dynamic one-woman shows and renowned workshops headline happenings worldwide.