Publication : 04-07-2021

#interview #portrait #random questions

8 questions to ERZIELKONSCHT founder Betsy Dentzer

1. How does one become a storyteller in the 21st century in the age of new media?

I think it is precisely these new media that are reviving the desire to tell stories and listen to them. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to demonise the new media, as they make our everyday lives much easier and offer so many possibilities that were unthinkable before. I use the new media a lot in my professional and private life and wouldn't want to do without them. But I think many people would also agree that they are draining. Our brains have to process huge quantities of images and information every day. Everyone is constantly trying to outdo each other and we constantly feel under pressure to keep up. Using social media amplifies this feeling enormously. Sharing, experiencing and listening to stories is like taking a step back from this rush.
Since I originally studied social work, storytelling is exactly the right art form for me. Let's say it was a great discovery, an ‘aha!’ moment. It felt as if it had always been waiting for me. You feel very close to your audience and the fourth wall falls away completely. When you tell a story, you share and you give; it’s a kind of social dialogue. It also provides me with the opportunity to engage extensively with literature, which has always been my great passion.

2. Do you need red hair for that?

Not necessarily, but it makes storytelling much easier! Blue and green would also work, of course. Obviously blond, brown or black hair won’t do but that doesn’t mean that we’re prepared to work with every redhead… ;-)
Life is too short not to be a redhead. ;-)

3. Tell me, why do you consider stoytelling as an art?

Wow...this is a difficult question, but it's very good to think about it because I often lack good arguments. I'm going to make my case carefully.
Personally, I like to call storytelling the simplest form of theatre. The boundaries to acting are fluid, not least in training. Narrative art involves not only telling a story, but using gestures, facial expressions, movements, rhetoric and language. You have to always combine these with flexibility and a willingness to improvise. So the art of storytelling is definitely more complex than one might initially assume. You have to think about how to use the stage and keep the audience engaged. You need skills in dramaturgy and a natural feel for moods, rhythms, speech melodies and moments of tension, as well as an ability to express emotions physically and linguistically.
Like actors, the training of a storyteller consists of practical subjects such as speech training, dance, movement training, relaxation practices, etc. The art of storytelling is also closely linked to literature. What the audience sees and hears on stage is the result of a whole study of oral literature. As a storyteller, you have to use all kinds of narrative material, such as fairy tales, myths, sagas, legends, epics, farces. However, on top of that, you have to carry out literary research on repertoires and various philosophical approaches. As a result, storytellers are not just stage artists; they are literary experts in their field.
It is this relationship with different art forms that makes storytelling an art form in its own right.

4. How do you train your mouth?

I rehearse a lot in the car. Since I can’t get much done when I drive, I use that time to memorise stories, experiment with rhythms and try out expressions. Besides regular breathing and vocal exercises (to be honest, I'm often too lazy to work on these and I should be more disciplined), it's the storytelling itself that trains the mouth. I’ve always found direct contact with the audience to be more productive than rehearsing in a quiet room. I love informal settings in which the audience accepts that I’m trying out material that might not be perfect in return for the opportunity to see the premiere of my story. For me, storytelling is about having the courage to fail, learning from mistakes and taking a leap of faith. It can be uncomfortable at first, but then its refreshing and liberating (just like when you “jump in at the deep end”).

5. Where do you get your inspiration from?

Inspiration always comes when you least expect it. The classic scenario is in the shower, when you don’t have pen or paper to hand. The other classic scenario is in bed at night, just before falling asleep. I think it has to do with the fact that you are more creative when you are at ease...that's why it's so important to take breaks sometimes to clear your head. I get a lot of inspiration from books, literature, texts...and by that I don't only mean stories from oral literature, but everything: novels, newspaper articles...even joke books!
Sometimes inspiration comes from everyday experiences, like a small sentence, a concert, an exhibition, and of course from performances by colleagues. I also get inspiration from travelling to other countries, experiencing foreign cultures, hearing the melody of a foreign language, experiencing ceremonies and rituals that were previously unknown to me. Seeing people and the way they interact with each other can also be very inspiring, as well as collaborating with other artists.

6. Which audience is louder/cheekier: children or adults?

Children are definitely louder, but mainly because they have no inhibitions; they give free rein to their emotions. But this is by no means a bad thing. On the contrary, it gives storytellers the opportunity to react, improvise and incorporate the children's exclamations into the story. Everything I say is reflected in the children's faces and they are willing to enter strange, imaginary worlds. They empathise with the characters and share in their sadness or happiness. Adults actually express their amusement more than anything else. In performances for adults, all you hear is laughter. What I find really cheeky is when adults stare at their mobile phone screens during a storytelling session. But fortunately that doesn’t happen very often.

7. Every country, every culture has its village idiot. Which one is ours?

Wow, your questions are great, but really challenging! Village idiots in stories are very interesting characters. They have, without exception, unrecognised talents. Their intelligence is not always initially apparent so they are underestimated. It is their shrewdness, charming self-sufficiency and social intelligence that make them winners in the end. I love all stories of this kind! I mean, who doesn't love the character of Forrest Gump? That doesn't answer your question though, does it? Hm, maybe the Fiischen from "De Wëllefchen an de Fiischen" could be described as a village idiot...although he doesn't actually fit into the category I just described because he is a real loser. In Luxembourg, we don't have that ONE character like Till Eulenspiegel or Nasreddin Hodscha...although these are pranksters rather than village idiots. Another example from the German-speaking world would be the stories about the Schildbürger. There are probably also individual texts with good examples in Luxembourgish, but I would have to find them first. ;-)

8. Bier oder Schmier ?

Hahahaha… Drei Bier sind auch ‘ne Schmier, an dann hues de nach näicht dobäi gedronk! ;-)