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Dancing with the Audience

A Workshop with Pam McGrath and Doug Lipman

This is a special workshop. It's not easy to describe, so I hope you'll read this essay. Enough to understand what a great chance this move your storytelling to the next level.

I know how hard it can be, to carve out a long weekend for nurturing yourself as an artist. But I believe this workshop offers something you won't get anywhere else. You can decide for yourself if this event makes sense for your needs.


One day, Pam McGrath and I were talking about the needs of more-experienced storytellers. Is there a neglected issue, we asked, that most people need to confront to get beyond a certain level?

We both agreed that no two people have the same needs or the same struggles. But lots of us who end up sticking with storytelling have had a similar experience.

Somewhere, often early in our life as a storyteller, "magic" happens:

We tell a story where everything "clicks." Suddenly we and the audience are caught up in the timeless flow of story. We are not separate. Time stands the tale's momentum rushes on.

Often enough, no one present--not the teller, not the listeners--is quite sure what just happened. We may feel lighter. Or taken care of. Or just absorbed in the story's events or characters. But we want more.

After an experience like that, an "ordinary" telling seems humdrum. For some, it can even be a crushing disappointment! Where did the ease go? The sense of connection? The sense of mastery?

Then, often enough, we begin to doubt ourselves. Did I do something wrong? Did I tell the wrong story? Have I lost my touch?


As professional storytelling coaches, Pam and I wanted to know: Is there a way to have "magic" experiences more consistently? What makes the difference between the ordinary and the transporting?

Here's where Pam's sensitivity to her own audiences came in. She said, "I remember the first time it happened to me. It was just my second or third time telling a story--my first in front of a big audience.

"The house lights were dimmed, so I couldn't see people's faces. I had never told to an invisible crowd before! If I couldn't see them, how would I know if they were with me?

"Forced to call on my other senses, I paid attention to anything I could perceive about them. Then something amazing happened. I found I could "feel" the crowd! When I paused a moment, I felt them waiting for me. When I went on, I could feel them imagining with me.

"It was one of my peak experiences! I felt connected and powerful. I've been hooked on storytelling ever since."

I've taught nearly a hundred multi-day storytelling workshops over the last ten years. I have heard many experiences like Pam's. But I'd never thought of designing a workshop around her next question: how can we help people have such experiences more consistently?

Hearing Pam, I had a new hypothesis: what if the key issue is PAYING ATTENTION TO YOUR PUSH AND PULL with the audience? Wouldn't a workshop on that subject make a huge difference?


Think about it. As beginners, we tend to focus on two parts of the storytelling equation. We work hard on shaping our stories. And we pay attention to ourselves: how we tell, how we prepare, look, feel, and sound.

But we may leave the third major ingredient to chance: our interaction with the audience. Since most storytellers neglect it, wouldn't people IMPROVE GREATLY if they paid better attention to it?

After all, most of the transporting experiences we had heard about happened with an audience. Could we teach people to be more "present" with their listeners?


Yes, we reasoned, there must be a way to teach this.

First, we'd have to find a way to give people the experience of sensing their audience. Then of being connected--of pushing and pulling the invisible threads of connection.

We'd have to help people notice when the "balance point" happened. Then we'd have to give people a chance to incorporate that experience in their telling.

The result was a workshop Pam McGrath and I premiered in July, 1999, Dancing With the Audience.

Did it work? Yes. It succeeded in many ways. Everyone who attended found it useful.


So we revised our techniques. We expanded the amount of individual time to work on them. And we offered it again in January, 2000. People got results!

Now we're ready to offer it in your community. For availability, price, and just to talk over whether this makes sense for you, please email or call!

This workshop can make a lasting difference in your ability to experience storytelling "magic."


Doug Lipman

Pam McGrath (



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This page was last updated on Friday, November 28, 2003
Copyright©2003 Doug Lipman