Thursday, August 6, 2015

A Writer As A Storyteller

When I arrived in Prague, while looking for work as an ESL teacher, I came across an ad for Mysterium Tour. This company - a night tour company narrating tales and legends of Old Prague - was looking for a narrator in English to guide tours round Old Town.

Having learned already of the thriving tourism business in Prague, and reading about the Gothic-themed experience which Mysterium offered, I was very excited to apply.

I met with the owner, Andrea Arciacona, one afternoon for a brief interview. Liking what he saw, he then invited me to take part in a tour alongside him - a tour guided by a Russian storyteller of his - and then invited me to take the next step, which was to study and learn a script which I would later narrate to him.

I studied the script intensely for a few days, knowing how much my situation relied on this offer. I had no acting training whatsoever even though in my head I fancied myself capable of the craft were I to dedicate myself to it. And I was not far wrong, though I had not counted on the difficulty of memorizing as script word per word.

I met with Andrea in one of Prague’s many twisting, cobblestone streets, and there I narrated for him the tale of the headless horseman - a Bohemian legend. It was fun. And Andrea was impressed. I then decided to show off (cocky man that I am) and asked him if I he wanted to for me to narrate some of the other stories which had been narrated during the tour which we had followed a few nights before. I did and he was even more impressed.

So began my career at Mysterium Tour Prague. It was slow at first, with many tours led for a mere romantic couple or two, all in the cold of the winter in Prague. But with each tour I better remembered the scripts and further improved my delivery. Then came the point when I could recite the stories so well that I could take a step back and analyse them as stories in themselves.

Enter the author. With years of research and practice under my belt, I took a good look at these legends and realized that many of them were missing something... a certain spark which might not have been necessary to folk sharing these tales in the dark of a lantern lit tavern, but which was necessary for the sophisticated audiences of today.

I returned to the source material to ensure that I did not digress from the originals, and then began to fill in the plot holes with character flaws, laws and beliefs of the times, and vivid descriptions to bring the stories to life.

So the legends which were humble paragraphs on the page became tales of riveting dynamic when told during the tours. Our guests engaged in them much more and could relate to them much better, identifying with the human element which has been the common to every great tale since the beginning of time.

As an author, I could not be more elated to enjoy this experience. Telling stories on paper - that is, on word processors - and telling them live to an intimate audience are two completely different experiences, and yet each of them benefited from the other. As a story teller, I offer pauses and decoys which keep the people in suspense, just like as a writer I make us of the element of detail and improvisation to make my prose all the more engaging.

-Georg Freese
Senior Storyteller

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