There was a tip from 2016 about a fortune cookie I received. ..
It said: You create your own stage. The Audience is waiting.
And then, this follow up about creating your own space:
Wherever you may be performing, you must create an atmosphere that is conducive to the process of storytelling. Whether it be on a stage in an auditorium, a classroom, a breakout room at a conference, under a canopy at an outside fair, or a street corner where you may be busking, How can storytellers create a space where listeners will feel welcome and want to join you in creating a story? And remember, this must happen BEFORE you tell your first story. There are several things to consider. The first, and most important, as always, is: who is your audience?
Your audience: Is your audience mostly adults, children, teenagers, mixed? What are the demographics, or "make up" of the audience? Are they from an urban or rural area, the deep south, the bible belt? Are they middle-management executives or a group of church-going housewives? One must always consider the audience, not only in choosing stories, but also, how you will be perceived. And this starts even before you walk into the space!
Your introduction: How will you be introduced? Who will introduce you? Have you written an introduction? Will the MC be reading it word-for-word? Do they know you? Will they be speaking off-the-cuff? What are the things you WANT the audience to know about you? What are the things you DON'T WANT them to know? Will this audience welcome you if they are told you recently won an award for the "sexiest story slam", or would it be more prudent to leave out that information? I dislike having the MC "read" an introduction; I also dislike reciting a long list of accomplishments. I prefer to spend a few minutes with the MC to make sure they are comfortable letting the audience know the two or three most important things about you. And make the "last" thing that the MC says be on the lighter side, or even a humorous, perhaps cryptic statement.
"And before becoming a storyteller, Mark travelled all over the country as Winnie-The-Pooh - and perhaps he will tell you a story about that! Please welcome, Mark Goldman."
Your entrance: How will you come into the space / walk onstage? Where will you be just before you come into the space? I absolutely abhor when performers come from the farthest place away from the stage, walking slowly to the front! Don't make your audience wait for you. Be close to the stage when the MC is about to finish the introduction, so you are there, ready to go. If the MC is center stage, it's always nice to connect with them, with a handshake or hug, or even a simple nod/bow to them. Those first few seconds, yes - seconds, as you enter or come on, tell the audience something about you. Have energy, smile, maybe even nod, point or wave to a friend in the first few rows. Be warm and inviting. Show the audience they can expect something wonderful.
Engage your audience: Smile! Greet them warmly. If appropriate, it can help to thank them and let them know you are happy to be in their city, or with their organization. Share something that connects you to them: "Over the years, I have adopted three shelter dogs, and it's great to be here with you folks who work so hard to rescue and find forever homes for all the animals." Now I have them in the palm of my hand.
Children: An entirely different animal than adults! You will want to decide if they will sit on the floor, in chairs, in rows or a half circle. What will be the best configuration? If it's a classroom, discuss with the teacher(s). If it's outside, choose a place with the least distractions. Keep your entrance and beginning short and sweet. "You all look great today. Are you ready to hear some stories?" Don't keep them waiting with long-winded explanations about storytelling. Don't give them time to get distracted. Get to it!
Your story intro: Now you need to set the stage for them to listen to your story. If you are at a storytelling conference, and your audience is made up of all storytellers, you may not need an intro to your story. You may want to simply take a moment, breathe, and then begin the story. Or perhaps you want to engage the audience, to make sure they are with you. A question or statement can work as a teaser to get them interested and want to hear more.
Children: "You all know that stealing is wrong, right? Do you think someone can 'steal a smell'? Well, let's listen closely as I tell you the story of Stealing Smells"
Teens: "Have you ever been accused of stealing something, but you didn't do it? I know I have. Sometimes it's hard to prove you didn't do it. And sometimes people won't even listen to you. You know, I've got a story about that. It's called Stealing Smells."
Adults: "Stories come from all over the world. And sometimes, one story can originate in many different places and cultures. The story I am about to tell you has origins in India, Peru, and even Europe. I would like to share with you my version of Stealing Smells"
Busking - Street Performing: Energy, Energy, Energy! - You will not only have to create the space, you will probably have to find and gather your audience - much like the circus "barker" who calls out to the passers-by.
"Ladies and gentlemen - gather 'round to hear some fantastical stories!
Stories of kings and queens, witches and wizards, the high and mighty, and the downtrodden too,
and maybe a story of people... just like you!
Come near, come near, and you will hear:
stories that make you laugh, stories that make you cry,
and stories that make you remember that look in her eye -
the sound of that voice - the feel of his skin -
stories for everyone - come closer, come in."
All of this has to do with you! You are the creator of your own stage. Let the light shine on you so your audience can see and hear your stories!