Tuesday, January 12, 2010

KENTUCKY STORYTELLERS TALK: Cynthia Changaris Interviewed

Storytellers Talk. About Their Art
Cynthia Changaris interviewed.

Cynthia Changaris is one of two founding members, with Mary Hamilton, of the Kentucky Storytelling Association. At; the 2009 annual conference, Cynthia was the featured storyteller, as well as leadng two workshops on . She also leads W.O.W. workshops in storytelling and leads workshop including the Spellbinder training in 2007. Cynthia was interviewed in December of 2009 after the conference in Richmond by Paschal Baute. Lexington Spellbinder.

Paschal: “Why are we so ready to be captured by story?”

Cynthia: “ I do not believe people are ready to be captured by story. I believe they need to be lured into story listening, and once there, discover the delight, the fun, the humanity, the truth and often the light of listening. I believe the rhythm, vibration, action, emotions, and the narrative form, all are genetically encoded in us humans so we can be a people of community and be with each other. I believe story is like a deeply dug well and we know how to return to story to drink and refresh ourselves.”

Paschal: “What makes a story a well told tale"?

Cynthia: “The storyteller makes a point to be present with the audience at hand, fully present, authentic, and knows the story so well, image by image so that the storyteller creates worlds and the listeners can co-create their own worlds as they listen.”

Paschal: “What, in your opinion, are ‘tricks of the trade’ ways to ‘prime the pump,’ to get your audience attentive and engaged?”

Cynthia: “I speak to people, talk about what have they have been reading, what brought them there, what is going on in their community, What are their expectations, have they ever been to a story telling program before? What is going on in the space.”

Cynthia continues: “I ask myself: What are potential space/listening/observing problems for the audience, can I fix any of them or must I just go with the flow. I make myself as much at ease as possible, by meeting all the needs I have as best I can. I breathe. I often start with a song, because that eases me. I start with a funny or human interest story that is light but touches most of the audience because that lets the audience know they will be on a good and fun ride. I tell them a little bit about myself. I be the best me I can be.”

Paschal: “ When you have your audience ‘caught,’ spellbound or entranced, what is happening? Both to them and to you and between you and them?”

Cynthia: “They are listening raptly, eyes softened, mouths sometimes slack jawed, and they often breath with one breath. All of them are listening. The room has a stillness, a quietness, a holiness to it. Silence descends like sunshine. Community seems to be formed in front of me. I feel open, in the flow, neither too observant of my work or too unobservant. I am simply letting the story flow through me. I am breathing easily. Not tense. I am open hearted.”

Paschal: “. More than entertaining, what are the outcomes, in your opinion, that you are aiming for when you are really "in sync" with your audience. In other words what do you want them to leave with?”

Cynthia: “I want them to have had the experience, the opportunity to create the story with me, to experience the feelings, the sights, sounds, the actions, much like one would in being at a movie, but by making the pictures in their own head. I want them to have had a touch of humanity, of common ground, of insight, or ah ha. I want them to have laughed, and exercised their laughter muscles and released endorphins. I want them to be refreshed, rejuvenated, re-spirited. I want them to know we humans are an interesting, sometimes sorry, sometimes wonder filled lot, ain’t we just grand?”

Paschal: “ Is there, in your opinion, a spiritual dimensions to a story well told. If yes, please Explain...Define spiritual in your own way.”

Cynthia: “Yes. I always pray that I will be an instrument of the story and of the spirit, so that I can be open to telling the story, to choosing the things to say that help me connect and I hope the spirit guides me in this way. Stories themselves feed the spirit, feed the intellect, the decision making parts of us. I believe spirit is a large part of this. I wish ultimately to make people feel at home, feel they can come home, and be there.”

Paschal: “ What is it that is happening in a story well told between the teller and the engaged listener?”

Cynthia: “Communion. Simply, communion. The sharing of the bread and the wine and the spirit of all that it means to be human.”

Paschal: “ Where do you find your inspiration?”

Cynthia: “ I listen to storytellers, comedians, preachers, speakers every chance I get and get my inspiration from all sorts of places and all sorts of people, as I observe and listen to them through a storytellers eye/ear. I get my inspirations from reading, singing, playing, driving, quiet time, walking, touching. From church and from the profane. I keep my mind open and my thoughts active, as I drive, so stories often come to me then. I get my inspiration from listening, really listening to people. “

Cynthia continues: “I get my inspirations from the hard places I have been in my life, and from the things I have learned and noted. I get inspirations from my friends and from those who curiously make me uncomfortable.”

Paschal: How have you come by your love of story, storytelling and the teaching of storytelling?

Cynthia: I had three sons, two of who were dyslexic. This caused me to think a lot about how to help them learn better, and to read a lot about learning techniques. I read, took workshops, watched, listened and grew from the experience.

I have a life long and innate learning bias, since I was little. I have enjoyed and remembered best the things I have learned by encountering materiel and discovering things. I want to create "ah ha experiences" for people whom I am teaching. I want them to encounter work and materiel and have a chance to discover on their own what works, and what theories are applicable. This is the type of learning situation I am very interested in.

My mother was an extraordinary teacher. I watched and learned from her. I taught for 4 years at the College of Nursing at Medical University of SC, in community health. I learned a lot from doing this work, and from developing alternative learning techniques for older students, who were community and nursing leaders who came back for a baccalaureate.

I have an innate desire to create community, and do so when I am teaching. I believe community, dialog, conversation, sharing observations is a strong learning aide, and makes life more interesting and sparkly.

Thank you, Cynthia Changaris for sharing these thought and feelings about your art. Hopefully you have both spurred and encouraged our understanding of the art of storytelling. We may look forward to hearing from other Kentucky storytellers. You can find out more about Cynthia by visiting her website at http://www.storytellersriverhouse.com/