I was watching football this weekend. I could hear the quarterback calling "audibles", messages/instructions to the team members about a small shift/change in the play. Each team member knows how to change their actions slightly based on the audible called.
Storytellers respond to audibles too...but you have to make sure you are listening. In storytelling, the audibles can be subtle, and each storyteller/listener may react or respond in a similar but slightly different way. In Liz Warren's book, The Oral Tradition Today, she tells of a festival where the first teller told a story about Spam. Each teller, in turn, integrated Spam into their own stories! The audience loved the ongoing "theme" and was even anticipating when it would pop up in the next story. It was a great way for all tellers to come together and play off of one another.
Good MCs listen for audibles. Last week at the Glendale Tellabration™ event, Mark Compton was the MC. In my story of The Kite, I said, "I was off and out the door before my mother could warn me to be careful." When I finished the set and left the stage, Mark commented to the audience, "Don't run off and out the door before we get a chance to thank you." And then the audience applauded. It is the mark of an MC and a teller who is a "pro".
At the Jonesborough Festival last month, Clare Murphy, who has a deep (but velvety) Irish Brogue, started out by telling the crowd, "I'm going to give you a few minutes to get used to my voice." When Bil Lepp followed with his own set, he said the same thing! The crowd roared with laughter at the absurdity of his statement. It was a brilliant response to an audible he had heard from Clare.
Once again, we are back to the first step in storytelling: listening. When you are performing with others, don't sit there, waiting to go on, worrying about your set; listen to the other tellers. Be aware of what you hear and what you might be able to incorporate into your set or story. Listen to your audience.
Perhaps someone lets out a loud, "Oh my goodness, gracious!" Find a way to use that later...or even respond immediately: "Yes! That's exactly the way the little girl reacted! Everyone say it with me." The audience responds. Then, every time you get to where she is afraid (or speaks), have the crowd repeat it with you.
It takes time and practice to develop the listening skills to respond to audibles. If you're not sure, don't respond, but after the show, ask a colleague if they think it would have worked. Eventually, you will be able to read the audience and know if it's right!
Now get out there and listen: "Rumplestiltskin...Rumplestiltskin...398.2...398.2...hut...hut."