Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Where's the Story?

For the past few days, I've been searching for something to read. I had started a book about Fidel Castro but the author used the word thusly which set me off. Plus, she jumped around in time a bit and confused me.

So in my quest for a good story, I came across this article in the New York Times about how M.I.T. in conjunction with Hollywood executives will be studying the demise of the story. The Center for Future Storytelling is examining if texting, visual clutter and the like are eroding the traditional methods of telling a story; namely with a beginning, middle and end.

It reminded me of the time I took a writing workshop and we all had to come up with an incident for a personal essay. I talked about how, as a stage manager, I see the oddest audience behavior: people eating their lunch, sleeping, texting of course, and more. A woman brought up that kids these days are used to doing their homework while listening to music and IM'ing their friends. She suggested that theater would have to seek a different way of communicating with their audiences to accommodate such multi-tasking patrons. I wanted to argue that kids should just learn how to sit still and focus, but I didn't want to sound like a curmudgeon.

As I looked further into this Center for Future Storytelling, I came across the press release from MIT. It explains that the idea of the center is to "transform audiences into active participants." Perhaps that woman in the writing workshop was right. Or, maybe the NY Times, like myself, is a bit of a curmudgeon. Many of the blogs that reported on this new endeavor found it exciting and different.

I'm not sure where I stand on the issue. I love a good, well-told story as well as those mindless romps that seem to have no plot; it all depends on the mood I am in at the time. For the most part though, I tend to skip a lot of movies these days because the I can tell the entire story from the preview. When I was young, I had heard that there are only seven story lines in the world and that every story is a variation on one of those seven. My brother and I would watch a movie and say, "Oh yes, it's the old boy meets girl and blows her head off, love that storyline." So it will be interesting to see if the Center actually comes up with more story lines or just new ways of re-inventing them: "Oh yes, the old boy meets girl and tries to blow her head off but hits an audience member instead."

But story or no story, I still don't have anything to read.

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