I have a few more blog posts about the tour to put up. Here are a few random thoughts about the performances in Chile, some of which apply elsewhere.
When the teachers are enjoying the performance, the students are likely to as well.
They listen better when given good models. I love it when the teachers join in, showing the students that storytelling is worth everybody's attention. There were other schools where the teachers talked among themselves, graded papers in front of the students and/or abdicated responsibility for the kids' behavior. While I'm usually fairly good at audience management, I found these performances challenging.
I've written in the past about the energy of space. How the room is set up, what direction the listeners are facing, the temperature and the light all matter.
I was at one school where the little boys sat on auditorium seats, the cushy kind. Not only were the house lights set on dim with no possibility of turning them up, the stage lights put my face in shadow. I was on the stage, which felt miles from the audience. The boys thought they were invisible, as they bounced up and down on the seats or got up and moved to different rows or poked the kids around them during the stories. In fact, I could see them quite well. If these kids had been in a different space, I suspect they would have been able to listen much better. At the school where the teachers were having fun in the picture above, I was able to stand in front of the stage, closer to the kids:
At another school, the kindergarten and first grade sat on tall chairs. We tried to convince the administrators to seat them on the floor, to no avail. The kids couldn't see over the chair backs. Here's a picture of kindergartners and first graders in a better seating arrangement:
Some of the best performances were those where the kids were prepared in advance, by listening or watching some of my stories online, either on my website or on my youtube channel. At one school, the fifth grade girls came in with signs that they held up saying, "I want my apple juice!" They had listened to The ghost with the one black eye and had the signs to prove it. These were the girls who leapt to their feet at the end of that story.
It's also true that it's impossible to know the effect of the stories. Students who don't look like they're listening may draw detailed pictures of the characters later.
Even with some of the more difficult shows, on balance, it was an enormously fun tour, one I will dream on for years. Thanks, DreamOn Productions, for bringing me to Chile!