Storytelling adapts to tech in pandemic era

Storytelling adapts to tech in pandemic era

Geeta Ramanujam

Storytellers have adapted to the pandemic in unusual ways. Showtime spoke to several practitioners, and they spoke about how things have changed over the past year.

More sessions, workshops 

Geeta Ramanujam, founder and director of Kathalaya’s International Academy of Storytelling, had never imagined she would go completely virtual. “I had to adapt to an online audience. I adopted technology to make storytelling more effective, and we had smaller storytelling groups springing up everywhere. We have also conducted more webinars and workshops than ever before. We also now have a large audience with people from across the world,” says Geeta.

Where: The Academy’s official YouTube and Facebook pages
What: Stories for adults and children in Kannada, Tamil, English classics, contemporary stories and real-life stories.
When: On demand

Technology provides props 

Ameen Haque, founder of The Storywallahs, says he now addresses about 200 people on screen, instead of the earlier 30 to 40 in person. “The medium is the same but the canvas is huge,” says Ameen.

He is exploring and adapting to technology in a big way. “All the characters come alive, thanks to technology. For instance, I use a virtual moustache when I become a pirate. I change the roles and characters with just a click of a button. The background can also be changed using a virtual feature. You have to gain an understanding of the stage and space,” says Ameen.

Keeping children hooked is a huge challenge, stories make it easy. “Storytelling during the pandemic is about ensuring the mental well-being of a child because they are looking at the screen during online classes and even their playtime is before the screen. Storytelling must offer a different experience,” adds Ameen.

Where: @storywallahs on Twitter
What:  Stories for all age groups 
When: Monday to Sunday

Audiences talk back

Priya Muthukumar, founder of Storipur, says storytelling has definitely evolved during the pandemic and storytellers now use new formats. 

“I used my hands and sometimes walked around when narrating a story. Now, I have to fit myself onto a small screen. While I was still adapting to the new format, I noticed that children took to it pretty quickly. Realising that the show must go on, I began working on my props to make it more contextual, and invested a great deal on my expressions and voice and used instruments to liven up sessions. I use the drums to add a rhythm to the narration,” explains Priya. She always keeps the chat box open for conversation to flow in. “You may be connecting with total strangers but once you tune in to the context then it’s a smooth sail. You realise that the story is what binds us together,” she says.

Where: storipur_priya_storyteller on Instagram
What: Stories for children and adults in English and Tamil
When: On demand 

Grief circles open up

Aparna Athreya says more cheerful stories are being narrated, especially for children, as they stay indoors all year. “We have also helped them discover stories,” says Aparna, adding that ‘grief circles’ have sprung up from within the storytelling circuit. Many people are narrating their real-life experiences. “More people are motivated to take to storytelling in a big way. They can create their own space and market, thanks to the online presence,” she adds.

Where: YouTube
What: Stories for children and adults 
When: Monday to Sunday

Audiences got bigger

Vikram Sridhar, performance storyteller and theatre practitioner, says the idea of storytelling sessions was to steer people away from the digital space, but the pandemic has brought about just the opposite. "I began to look at performing in a new space. I began looking at how I could spruce up the aesthetics to make storytelling more effective. The choice of stories changed and I realised that I was addressing a larger audience. Staying relevant was key to holding their attention and interest," says Vikram. The pandemic has brought a large community of storytellers together. The art has definitely got bigger, he observes.

Where: the_storytellingfellow on Instagram 
What: Stories for all age groups from children, teens and adults
When: Monday to Sunday


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