By Janet “Jelly Bean” Tucker

When you think of the theme this month of “storytelling”, you might think it applies only to finding a good book or story and memorizing it so you can stand up and tell the story to an audience. In fact, storytelling is much larger than that and is the basic glue for all entertainment arts. A magician without a story is just performing another trick. A puppeteer without a story is just playing with a toy doll. Clowns use story elements to develop a beginning, middle, and end for skits as well as to develop a complete routine into a performance.

The beginning of a story is the thought or idea which starts the action. Even in a silent clown skit, you need to understand what is going on in the clown’s mind which starts his action. The action then moves forward with ideas, misunderstandings, use of props or magic or skills, until the conclusion or “blow off” or the end of the routine falls into place.

Clowns can use props to emphasize parts of their stories or routines. Props can be larger than normal, more colorful than usual, or some sort of a pun or joke. Clowns can incorporate magic to illustrate parts of a story. Dave “Mr. Magish” Mitchell of JAM Magic has developed a number of tricks that are based on old fairy tales or Mother Goose rhymes. You could also use any utility prop such as a change bag or chick pan to illustrate change in a story.

Many times at a party, it is just fun for the clown to let the children do a spontaneous story. Start with the line “Once upon a time there was a _________” and let the children shout out something to fill in that line. Here are the basic story elements I use for spontaneous stories:
Once upon a time there was a _________________
Whose name was _____________________________
And who lived _____________________________
And who always _______________________________
But one day __________________________________
And because of that _______________________________
And because of that ________________________________
Until finally ______________________________________

As for the actual telling of a story, consider the use of different tones of voice, such as a high voice for the mother in Goldilocks and the 3 Bears versus a very low voice for the Father Bear. Consider using simple accents, such as a southern drawl or a cowboy twang or a little voice for a baby.

Use a variety of voice inflections. Practice this by reciting the following sentence and see how putting the emphasis on different words puts a whole different meaning to the sentence. Say “I did not say she ate the cupcake”. If you emphasize the word “say”, it implies you didn’t say it out loud but you may have written it or thought it. If you emphasize the word “ate” it implies she didn’t eat it but maybe hid it or smashed it or did something else to it. If you emphasize the word “cupcake”, she may not have eaten the cupcake but she did eat the cake, the pizza, the pies, and possibly the wallpaper right off the wall.

Many stories come across my desk from the internet and I keep a file of those I like to tell. Here’s one that has become a favorite of mine because I’m often accused of being a “crackpot”.
The Cracked Pot
Author Unknown

Long ago, a water bearer in India had two large pots.
Each hung on one end of a pole, which he carried across his shoulders. One
of the pots had a crack in it. The other pot was perfect and always
delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the
stream to the master’s house, but the cracked pot arrived only half full.
For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only
one and a half pots full of water to his master’s house after each trip to
the stream. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments,
perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was
ashamed of its own imperfection and miserable that it was able to
accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.
Perceiving itself to be a bitter failure, the cracked pot spoke to the
water bearer one day by the stream.
“I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you.”
“Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?”
“I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load
because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to
your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work,
and you don’t get full value from your efforts,” the pot said.
The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his
compassion he said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to
notice the flowers along the path.”
Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the
beautiful flowers beside the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end
of the trail, it still felt bad because it had again leaked half its load,
and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.
But the bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers
only on your side of the path? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them.
“For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to
decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house.”
Each of us has our own unique “flaws.” We’re all cracked pots. But if we
will allow it, Jesus will use our flaws to grace His Father’s table. As God
calls you to the tasks He has appointed for you, don’t be afraid of your
flaws. Acknowledge them, and allow Him to take advantage of them, and you,
too, can be the cause of beauty along His pathway.