By Don White
What drew you to storytelling? I started out as a songwriter who had some funny and some serious songs. I got a job at a comedy club and began learning about stand up. I preferred the storyteller type of comics to the joke tellers. When I stopped doing stand up and came back to the music scene my show had a lot more story in it. I became fascinated with the art form. I studied the minutia of it to the point where I once spent the better part of a year studying people who did comedy and series acting without talking – Chaplin, Keaton, Harpo Marx – just to learn the ways that facial expressions, body language and emotional commitment can visually enhance story.
What does storytelling do for you in your life? Everything is a story to me. I never see anything without speculating as to what information I would need in order to tell the story. If I see two men arguing in the street, I imagine their back stories. Was one of them late for work? Is this a route he wouldn’t normally take? Did one kiss his wife on the cheek and say he loved her after breakfast? Has one of them been dealing with some big problem at home that is contributing to his short fuse? Is this behavior common or uncommon in either or both of the men? This process of thinking about all the characters, their needs, wants, and points of view is invaluable to me as I navigate my life and all the serious decision it demands that I make.
What project are you currently working on?I am working on my second collection of short stories. My first book came out in 2010. I was half finished before I realized how hard it is to write a book. Now that I understand how much work and focus it takes to do it well, I keep getting distracted by this question: Do I want to spend my precious time allotment living or writing about the living I have already done? So I’ve been writing on rainy and cold winter days. That seems to be a reasonable compromise but it makes the process longer.
I am also working on a children’s book called, “A Baby Monster and The Boy Who Did not Like Pickles.” I live in Lynn, Massachusetts. We have more than our share of problems and challenges here. Poverty, heroin, homelessness and violent crime stats that are all above the national average. As a life-long resident in the center of five generations here, I am deeply involved in trying to improve things through the arts. I started a spoken word open mike eight years ago called Speak Up that is specifically designed to reach out to the young people here, some of whom are two and three generations descended from drug addicts. The children’s book is my first attempt at writing for children whose parents are not well enough to give them the kind of childhood that other children might take for granted. The goal is to do it with humor and have the bigger message underneath the surface.
I am also working on a storytelling show called “Father’s Daze” that I will be doing this year around the country with Bil Lepp and Bill Harley. It is a very funny and heartfelt show for and about the secret lives of Dads. I am pleased to say that I will be back in Indianapolis on April 14, 2018 to do this for show for Storytelling Arts of Indiana.
The executive director of Storytelling Arts of Indiana first experienced Don White performing at the 2015 National Storytelling Festival. She is please to be able to introduce Don to central Indiana audiences on February 11, 2017, 7:30 p.m. at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center. Purchase tickets online or call 317-232-1882.