Storytelling: Stronger than Glue and Holds Everything Together

What we have discovered is that one artistic element crosses through all of the others and that is Storytelling. Like the glue that holds things together, storytelling improves any performance.

During the WOW Kids Workshop, we work on a lot of artistic elements, including magic, puppets, balloons, vent, juggling, drama, clowning, and more. What we have discovered is that one artistic element crosses through all of the others and that is Storytelling. Like the glue that holds things together, storytelling improves any performance.

Even a magic trick done silently, or a clown skit done silently, or a mime performance, still has the element of storytelling in it. There is a beginning, middle, and an ending. There is a premise or place to start and the conclusion which finishes and prepares the audience for the applause.

We spend a good bit of time on storytelling in WOW because it is the “glue”
that will make or break a performance. A magician who stands up there and says “And now for my next trick…” and then later says “And now for my next trick…” is quickly seen as less than a professional. The better the magician, the more bits of magic and business he or she will weave into the process to give the segment a beginning and an ending with lots of amusement and amazement in the middle.

These don’t have to be stories taken from books or articles and worked into a routine. A clown skit can start with a simple idea such as a clown trying to sit on a chair. The middle becomes the difficulties faced when the chair folds up or tips over or moves out of the way each time the clown tries to sit. The conclusion is the creative way the clown finally gets the chair to cooperate and he finally is able to sit down and rest.

Every puppet play has a storyline running through it, usually something that has one character knowing something that another character does not. This usually results in misunderstandings or confusion until the conclusion straightens out the whole thing. A simple use for puppets is to teach a scripture memory verse. If one puppet mispronounces the words or can’t read the words or gets them in the wrong order, and another puppet is used to straighten out the confusion, the end result is everyone hears the verse a number of times and by the end of the bit, both the confused puppet and the audience know the verse.

Now these examples above are how a story can be used to make any of the artistic elements into a performance. There is also the other side of storytelling which does use a story from a book or article. In that case, the story is read or told and the artistic elements are used to accessorize and embellish the story itself. If the story is about “The Hungry Caterpillar,” a caterpillar puppet can have a mouth that will be able to open and hold a variety of cupcakes and candy and other things the caterpillar might eat. Then the caterpillar can roll up and soon a beautiful butterfly puppet can come up onstage to show what happened to the caterpillar.

Most Bible stories lend themselves to embellishments. The Christmas story can be told from a large box-like book that opens to take out various things, including a legal-looking decree to be taxed, a small donkey, a sign saying Holiday Inn, and the various pieces found in a crèche scene that can be taken from the book and made into a display as the story is told.

The story of John the Baptist might be told by a turtle puppet who lived on the
banks of the Jordan River and what he saw day after day, until the beautiful day
he saw Jesus being baptized and the dove of the Holy Spirit coming from heaven and the voice of God saying “This is my Beloved Son”.

The beautiful story called “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein can be used to
show friendship or even how Jesus gave his all for each of us.

One of the values of using a story as the foundation of a magic trick or puppet performance or even a juggling or rod drama routine is that the story can be already recorded so we don’t have to worry about forgetting the lines. The magic trick can be performed concentrating on the magic moves to be done or the puppets can be manipulated to follow the words of the recording. This requires a bit of preparation and practice ahead of time but will be much easier for our WOW kids to perform with in the end.

So kids, find one mechanical magic thing you can accomplish well and then develop a story about it. Practice the story until you can do it easily – or record it so you can just do the moves while listening to it – and focus on your stage presence and doing the trick well. All the kids got a magic coloring book last summer and this is a great magic prop to use for developing a storyline. In fact, in class, everyone has to come up with a story for their routine and we develop a long list of ideas the kids can use later.

Here’s a simple little story that can be illustrated with three things – a carrot, an egg, and a bag of coffee. If you have a box-book, you can put a plastic egg, a carrot, and a bag of coffee (like you might find in a hotel) into the book and take them out as the story is told. Or you might make then into stick puppets and hold them up onstage as each is being told. A cup of coffee at the end would emphasize that we need to be able to change our surroundings in a positive way because of who we are and the Holy Spirit we have
inside of us.

You’ll Never Look at a Cup of Coffee the Same Way Again

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life, how things were so hard for her. She didn’t know how she was going to make it, and she wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed, as soon as one of her problems was solved, a new one popped up.

Her mother took her into her kitchen, where she filled three pots with water. In the first pot, she placed some carrots, in the second one, she placed some eggs, and in the third pot, she placed some ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word, then in about twenty minutes, she turned off the burners.

She fished out the carrots and placed them into a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them into another bowl, and then she ladled the coffee into yet another bowl. Turning to her complaining daughter, she asked, “Tell me, what do you see?” “Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” her daughter replied.

She brought her daughter closer, and asked her to feel the carrots. She did, and
noticed that they were now soft. She told her daughter to break an egg, which she did, and after removing the shell, she saw that the egg was now hard-boiled. Finally, she told her daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted the rich flavor, then asked, “What’s the point, mother?”

Her mother explained that each of the three objects had faced the very same adversity,— boiling water, — but each had reacted differently: The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened, and became weak.

The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its insides became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling
water, they had changed the water!

“Now, which are you?” she asked her daughter, “when adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?”

Think of it like this… Which am I? Am I a carrot that appears to be strong, but with pain and adversity, do I wilt, and become soft and lose my strength? Am I an egg that starts out with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship, or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter, and tough, with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually CHANGES THE WATER!! The very circumstance that brings the pain!! When the water gets hot, it releases its fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better… and change the situation around you! When the hours are the darkest, and trials are their greatest, do you elevate to the next level?

How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?

By Janet & Larry Tucker – Diane & Greg Chalmers
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Stack of FCM Magazines

This article originally appeared in The Voice of FCM, vol. 58 num. 6.

Members of the Fellowship of Christian Magicians have access an online library containing over 50 years of FCM magazines filled with articles on sharing the Gospel using magic and other visual arts.