I am telling stories I write at home at my desk and I am telling stories, I improvise. The later is my origin. With that I started more than 30 years ago shouting to my audience “Sit on my lap and lend me your ear!”. Not too many were willing to sit on my lap, so the programme changed and changed.
But that’s the origin of my work: to fulfil the wishes of one person with a story made up and designed especially for that one. The person now sits in very comfortable armchair, feels a bit like a king, can express three wishes (answers to questions), which are the starting point for my improvisation.
Already this setting has a comforting quality. Somebody cares only for you, makes you the most important person. You are the focus of interest.
And sometimes do the stories:
One afternoon I put up my setting on a nice lawn in the centre of a very calm village. First came the kids, then night was falling, youngsters drove around my armchair with their motorbikes and laughed their heads off about me funny guy. Then it was dark, I was alone, just a little lantern lighted the setting. One of the youngsters came back with his motorbike with quite some speed, applied the brakes very hard and stopped just in front of me: “Can I have a story?” – “Sure.” And he wanted a story about a young man, who wanted to get away from his home but didn’t want to hurt his parents. After I finished the story he jumped on his bike and drove away as fast as he could. Five minutes later he came back and gave me his firelighter, in a leather case, one of his very personal treasure objects as he told me. “Thanks for the story, it moved me and helped me.”
For 20 years I used to tell stories in the same way in a park in the middle of Cologne. Each year it got a little harder: more and more addicts, more and more drunken homeless …
Once a young couple insisted to sit both at the same time in the armchair, which suits only one. I don’t like that very much, because wishes of two people are more difficult then those of one. And they were dirty and at least a little stoned.
They wanted to hear a story about life after death, that life is not finished with death. And it became quite clear to me, that they were AIDS-victims without much chance to live very long, decided to renounce on all treatment. I don’t remember the story (they are gone, most of them are only told this one time), but I remember, I had a very hard time. Hard for me was to give hope, to comfort, to say something positive and at the same time to respect their situation, their fears. It worked somehow.
And the reason I write about the third example is, I liked this story so much that I got myself to my desk to write it down and tell it again and again. Ulrike came with her 5 year old son. And again, both wanted to sit together in the chair. No, I said. My experience is, that parents tend to wish stories for their kids though they pretend to wish for themselves. They act as substitutes for their kids. The wishes drip full of moralist impetus. I hate it to be used for educating their kids by a story.
Well, the son sat beside the chair on the floor. And apparently the starting point for her wishes was the question of her son: What are we up for today? She probably looked in the newspaper, found the storytelling-event and so their got there and met me, the stranger, behaving quite strange.
To me the story is a nice example of how reality and fiction go hand in hand. I am convinced that fiction has likely to be based on reality. Fiction should transcend (ugly) reality but not in a harmonizing way. A story can do better if the listener is stimulated to work himself to find ways out of his problem in real life. The story just helps him with little fictious hints. A story should fulfil expectations and deceive them at the same time. This is the dialectic of fufilling and deceiving expectations at the same time. This method of dialectic approach to esthetical perception of world goes back to sovjet perception theory (Leontjew, Rubinstein), which goes back do Heidegger, Hegel and Kant.