G.L.O.C. MARGOT LEITMAN was commissioned to bring her storytelling expertise to the land of kookaburras & kangaroos. G.L.O.C. asked Margot to regale us with her thoughts from down under, mate.
Storytelling Down Under
by Margot Leitman
Australia has always been on my checklist of places I want to visit (along with Greece, Hawaii, and Graceland—oh wait, I’ve been there three times in the past ten years, because I have class). However, I never ever thought I would get there until an opportunity arose for me to go down under for a month and work with the Blue Room Theatre Company in Perth, Australia, which is literally the furthest point on the planet from NYC. Antarctica is closer.
Through the Blue Room Theatre, I taught two full storytelling classes and one intensive. I did storytelling-oriented improv coaching with Perth’s improv (or “Inpro” as they call it) company, “The Big Hoo Ha.” Additionally, I performed in about seven shows, and gave countless radio and newspaper interviews and photo shoots (it was fun to be a celeb for a month!). I was in this weird place of being in a foreign country where it’s 100 degrees in January but constantly reminding myself that I was not on vacation. My students were really diligent, and their class was condensed into a little over three weeks, instead of the eight weeks I usually spread my class out over. That means that towards the end when they had to start writing, they would have one-two days to write a story, as opposed to the week my American students have. I was impressed that they all got it done. It was amazing how, on the other end of the planet, so many people were so jazzed about storytelling and wanted it in their community so much that they found funding to get me there to help start it. It was truly an honor to be asked.
What I was not jazzed about was the drinking. I am not a beer drinker, so I struggled a bit with what to order (it seemed customary to drink at breakfast, lunch, and dinner there). At one restaurant my husband ordered a dirty gin martini, which tasted incredibly sweet. When he sent it back, the waiter explained, “dirty martinis are supposed to be sweet.” So, there’s that.
My class performances were spread out over four weeks—the storytelling group they’ve formed is called Barefaced Stories. I was there for, and hosted, opening night. I played it safe and ordered a simple white wine. That first Barefaced Stories show was sold out, which felt awesome. What was even more amazing, is that in New York City at least, we’re used to seeing a show where people get up one by one and tell a true, funny story from their life. In Perth, Australia, this was the first time this style of show had been done. Believe me, I did a few stand up shows before opening night where I told a funny story and the audiences looked at me like, “What is she doing? This does not compute.” So on opening night, when one by one my students got up and told their tale and one by one completely nailed it, I was really gratified. What’s even more exciting is that after the class shows complete, Barefaced Stories is continuing weekly at another venue. So, storytelling has officially arrived in Perth, Australia.
On my final night in Australia, I chanced it and ordered a lemon martini, which the bartender added olive brine to. Somehow, this final moment made leaving Australia a little less bittersweet. (Get it? Bittersweet? It’s a pun.)
Margot Leitman is the co-host of “Stripped Stories” at the UCB Theatre and the author of the upcoming memoir “Escape From Jersey” (working title). She is a three time winner of the Moth Storyslam and a 2010 Moth Grandslam champion.