Improv, Anecdotes—and Lots of Fun with Storytelling

Improv, Anecdotes—and Lots of Fun with Storytelling

November 7, 2017

Drama instructor Dan Morbyrne laid a handful of items on the table—a vintage phone, a Rubik’s cube, a fur piece. They were prompts for storytelling, and participants at our most recent Glenmeadow Learning program knew just what do to with them.

One man, a Glenmeadow resident, held the faux fur as he recounted fond memories of owning a clothing store in Springfield, Massachusetts. A woman used the same piece to tell a story about teaching the family cat to walk on a leash during a road trip years ago.

“It’s great to see two people use the same prop in different ways,” said Dan, who offered commentary on each stand-up entertainer’s storytelling to affirm their idea and inspire the next person to take the stage in Cotz Hall.

He and his colleague Steve Hays, who founded The Drama Studio in Springfield in 1987, led the program, “Improv and Anecdotes: Lessons on Storytelling through Humor.” They brought music, theater, improv and a whole lot of laughter, along with calls for more!

“Will you come every week?” one participant asked as the program wrapped up.

At The Drama Studio, Steve and Dan guide young people in acting lessons that also offer life skills—such as experience at public speaking. Steve says that when teaching teenagers, the first thing he does is help them understand they have a voice, as the art of the spoken word is getting lost in modern culture.

Steve and Dan gave our program participants a voice as well—literally starting the program by awakening vocal cords. Dan led warm-ups, offering gibberish phrases and tongue twisters for participants to repeat, like “ba-da-ga, ga-da-ba” and working up to “Mrs. Smith’s Fish Sauce Shop.” There was a bit of stumbling when the phrases got more complicated.

“Think of these exercises the same way you think of stretching,” Steve says. “The point is to stretch yourselves out by working the tongue and the lips, not to do it perfectly. You’re working the tongue and the lips and the soft palate.”

After tuning up their voices, residents sang songs like “Goody Goody” and “Put Your Arms Around Me Honey”—favorites from yesteryear, with which they were all familiar. The sound of their voices filled the room.

Then, out came the faux fur and the other props—including a trophy and a Whitman’s candy box. One man used the trophy to tell the story of how he always wanted to win a prize growing up; he never did, he told his audience, because he wasn’t much of an athlete. He held the trophy high and shook it nevertheless.

“It was a wonderful juxtaposition of what we think a trophy means,” Dan said of the man’s performance. “But that’s why it was so funny. Delightful!”

Another woman used the 1920s-era phone to share her memories of eavesdropping on friends and neighbors on party lines; Steve commented that her story was “engaging, told with just the right volume, eye contact and length.”

Individuals were also invited to take center stage to bring a sense of storytelling to the songs they had been singing. One woman belted out the lyrics to “Goody Goody,” pretending she was singing to a lover who had broken her heart.

“Isn’t she good,” another audience member cried out.

“Improv and Anecdotes” was offered through our Glenmeadow Learning program, one of many free offerings for members of the wider community that represent one facet of our mission to serve seniors across the region and to operate as a socially accountable organization.

Our next, and final program in the fall series, is “Through the Binoculars: Birds, Wildlife, and Climate Change,” coming up on Friday, Dec. 8. Learn more or register. We’d love to see you there.


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