Do you think that a Kamishibai storytelling consists only of passing pictures and literally reading the text? Open your mind, leave your comfort zone and have a great time telling "The Sun Cat"! Ready to boost by a 3000% your story and your stage skills? Yeah! Let's go for it!!
Today we're going to show you how to tell the Kamishibai story "The Sun Cat", but in our own special way. A way that usually ends up in great success. But that doesn't mean there aren't as many other ways to tell it, right? All roads lead to Rome!
Many of the tips that we are going to share with you to get the most out of this story, will be useful for all the other Kamishibai stories (except for those that are specific of this story, of course). But there is a part of preparation, tests, etc... that are common to all stories.
And now without any more fuss, let's get into it!
To tell this Kamishibai story, it's not necessary that you learn it by heart word for word (which is something that will happen in the end by itself), but it's recommended that you know the story as if you'd written it. And how do you do that? Well, reading!
The more we read The Sun Cat, the deeper we'll get into the story. We could dare to tell the story without ever reading it once, of course. But it's not recommended: we would be leaving too many things to chance and wasting great opportunities to "make the story ours", which ensures that the story moves and is understood.
This way we will really get to communicate the story as if it was something that has happened to us, not as if we were the voice of SIRI that gives us instructions.
We recommend a minimum of three readings, all of them without yet using the Kamishibai PRO Theater (A3).
This is a reading to ourselves, so we will not use our voice yet. The simpler and more focused it is, the more profit we will get out of it. It's not easy, but we should try to restrain the imagination as much as possible. This basically means that if we find ourselves thinking, judging or analyzing what we are reading, we should stop and pick it up later. No thinking about tones, intentions, audience, message... This is not the time. It's just a first approach, simple and quiet.
If you have the Premium version of the story (with storytelling suggestions, music, cutout puppets and mini-cards to reinforce reading comprehension), focus on reading the text only and ignore the suggestions and music changes for the moment.
Keep a pencil nearby, because now it's time to read The Sun Cat again, but this time out loud. We will identify in which parts we are most fluent and in which parts we are most clumsy. Watch out! Stop all acting impulses. We don't have an audience yet and it's too early to prove anything. So it's not about reading it with different voices, tones, rhythms or anything complex. It's just to hear the words of the story with our own voice. Let's not get too fancy and let's not judge ourselves!
As soon as we make a technical failure (e. g., we get stuck, misread a word, etc.) we will make a small cross at the place of the failure. We will pay attention to these marks later.
As you know, our Kamishibai stories include in the text side of the storycard the image that is being seen in the theater. In this third reading, we will focus on how the text relates to the illustration that our audience will see. Now is the time to open the door of our imagination.
We will perform this reading out loud. The second an image comes up in our mind, we quickly check that it exists in the illustration. If it does exist, we place it in relation to the viewer. For example, let's start with storycard #02:
A long time ago in a faraway country there was a small humble village that was full of good and happy people.
We stop because we are sure that some image has already arrived. Let's look at the illustration and compare. What do we see? The faraway country? The humble little village? Good and happy people? What you can clearly see is the small, humble village on the left and a person who lives in fullness on the right. The question, therefore, is: if we were to emphasize just one thing in that sentence, what would it be? From our point of view, what the audience does see. The small humble village. You don't see people.
We keep going like this with the rest of the story. When we detect that an image comes up that is not in the illustration, let us think for a moment: would it really be necessary? Or better yet, does that phrase that triggered my imagination matter to the rest of the story? Here is an example on this same story card, number 02:
He taught the little children to add up and take away and he said that he knew the names of all things.
No, that's not on the card. Would it be necessary to see it? Not really, no. So, is it necessary to talk about it? Yes, basically because Voung-Quan will help Tuc-Syn later on to find the proper name for his cat. Therefore, on a strictly narrative level, it is important to communicate that Voung-Quan is a wise man who helps and knows the name of everything.
Take advantage of the blade change to imagine how your audience would react to the new image: what visual information it contains and when the text will explain it (if it does). Surely you will come up with ideas of how to tell the story. It is still a little early to trust them, but don't reject them completely either.
If you have the Premium version of the story, read the narration suggestions to yourselves, understanding them but without following them or giving them any importance yet.
By the end of this third reading, you are likely to be much more familiar with the story than you were at the beginning.
Do you feel ready to tell the story with music in front of an audience? If you have not responded immediately with a categorical "yes", it is time to start rehearsing until you are absolutely sure.
To tell The Sun Cat with music, we'll need:
In our particular way of telling this story, we also use:
Find a stable table. It should be wide enough to fit the theater with its side doors open (minimum 70cm - 27in). Try also how much you would like to open the doors. It is true that if you create an angle (i. e., if you do not open them completely to their fullest extent), you will be "guiding" your audience's attention to the illustration. If you can choose between tables of different heights, choose the highest one. We do not recommend telling the story sitting down unless we have to. It seems silly, but it is very likely that if we sit down, we will make a very impersonal and comfortable "dramatized reading". Standing up will give us energy and will allow us to express ourselves more freely.
Check that the story cards are in order. The number of the story card is the one in the lower right corner of the full color face. This step is the most important of all, so never trust anyone but yourselves. Even if someone gives you the cards already ordered and tells you that he has checked it a thousand times.
Slinding the story cards is one of the most characteristic actions of the Kamishibai technique. So it's important that you spend a few minutes to figure out what's the best way to do it. No, we are not looking for speed or virtuosity, since that already belongs more to the performance than to the technique itself. For now, let's just find out how to pass the story cards properly almost without looking. We recommend this way that rarely fails:
Put your index and middle fingers together.
Place them between the frame of the theatre and the first story card, so that with your fingernails you touch the wood of the theater and with your fingertips the end of the story card that is visible to the audience.
Move your hand horizontally outwards. The first story card should have attached itself to your fingertips.
If for me reason you see that you are pulling out more than one story card, use your thumb as a stop.
In the Kamishibai technique, one of the very few things that has no meaning by itself is placing the story card in the back of the theater. Mostly because it's something strictly technical that is not done at the audience's sight. So, the more agile, quicker and cleaner this gesture is, the more we will focus the attention on what is really important.
Our Kamishibai PRO Theater (BIG A3) is specifically designed to make it as easy as possible for you to place the story card in its back. We do not recommend placing the story card in the same way as you pulled it out, that is, sliding it back in. It requires a lot of attention and precision, and it doesn't always go the way it should. Instead, we recommend this simple technique which is foolproof:
Less than a second!
The more you practice these two gestures (the sliding of the story card and putting it back into the theater), the more freedom you will have in your storytelling.
Check that the sound is working properly. Try technical things like how long it takes for your player to change tracks, where to turn down the volume, how to pause the music, if the screen automatically blocks itself after a few seconds, if the screen has low brightness, how much battery it has, how long it lasts with the battery fully charged, etc. Detect whatever causes you to "get stuck". For example, if you find it difficult to turn up and down the volume, or if changing tracks is complicated, you may need to look for another player. These are two actions that you will do often, so it's best to make things easy.
And don't forget to take a look at the 5 common mistakes made when using music with your Kamishibai. It's so easy to make them!
Time to get everything ready to begin our storytelling. To do this, close the three theater doors, make sure that the 13 story cards are in order, and place them inside the theater. Have everything ready soundwise, so that when you press "Play" Track 1 plays from the beginning.
We will start rehearsing with the best possible attitude: by welcoming all difficulties we may face. If you don't find any... be suspicious.
We recommend you to start rehearsing the strictly technical issues and then gradually add your personal touch. Why is that? Because the more you master the storytelling technique, the freer you will feel during the narration.
Ready for our first performance of The Sun Cat without an audience? Yes? Awesome! But let's do it first with a safety net: in a "technical" way.
Although we will tell the story from beginning to end, as we said, we will do it in a "technical" way. In other words, we will not look for intentions, changes of rhythm, voices, or anything that has to do with our interpretation. It's simply going through the entire sequence of actions, checking if everything is fine for us.
For example, as it's explained in the Premium version of the story, we start by playing Track 1. After that we open the Kamishibai slowly. We then say, "This story has been told for generations in Vietnam. Hope you like it." And we change the music to Track 2. And finally we pass the story card slowly.
Needless to say, you can do all this in your own way. For example, you can come up with a new introduction ("Do you know where Vietnam is?" or "Can you imagine what would happen if someone called you by a name different from your own?") and keeping the theater closed. Once you've changed to Track 2 and passed to story card 02, then you can open the Kamishibai theater.
The important thing now is to start making these decisions and write them down if necessary.
Great! We're already starting to make the story a little bit more ours.
We're pretty sure that now you're looking forward to diving into the storytelling, trying different voices, using the cut-out puppets that come with the Premium version, and so on.
Check the volume of your voice in relation to the music, realizing how many times you have had to turn it down or up in the middle of your story-telling. Whenever it happens, consider it as a technical failure that you should avoid.
Have you made a mistake in pronouncing any words or sentences? If it matches with a pencil mark we would have made in our second reading, do not hesitate: you need to find other words (more similar to yours) that tell the same story. Don't worry, Julián Fuentes, the author, he won't tell you anything, on the contrary!
Do you have problems passing a card in a particular way? Try to do it in a different, easier way, but beware, don't let it be for convenience. Find a simpler way without distorting the meaning of the way you wanted to pass it.
You have already done two technical rehearsals, so the next thing we should consider is the story's dramaturgy. Excuse me? And what does that mean? Well, we can sum it up in two words: making decisions.
We will tell you how this is done in a practical way. This would be our dramaturgy of The Sun Cat story card by story card:
Story card 01:
“Have you ever wondered why you are named after yourselves? And what would happen if someone changed your name?”
Listen to the answers, if any, and continue.
“The story we're about to hear will help us answer those questions. It's a traditional tale from Vietnam, a country in Asia, which has been told for generations and generations, from grandparents to grandchildren, from parents to children. Welcome to the tale of The Sun Cat for the Kamishibai.”
Story card 02:
Story card 03:
Story card 04:
Story card 05:
Story Card 06:
Story Card 07:
Story Card 08:
Story Card 09:
Story Card 10:
Story Card 11:
Story Card 12:
Story Card 13:
All this doesn't make sense if you don't tell the story to someone. So, now that you know one of the many ways to tell The Sun Cat, it's time to set up an audience session and see what happens. Will they boo you? Will they throw tomatoes at you? Will they tell you that "I'm bored" or "I didn't understand anything"? We doubt it very much. But very, very, veeeeery much. (Now, that's emphasized). :)
Do you tell the story of The Sun Cat differently? Share it with the rest of gaitos kamishibaiya by leaving a comment below, we're looking forward to discovering your version! And if you have found something of value in this article, don't forget to share it and I like it: nothing motivates us more to continue spreading our passion for Kamishibai.
See you in our next article!