Capital District Home Style.
Everyone knows a good storyteller, someone who can command the attention of a room. This person always has a great story, an amazing tale, a hard-to-believe adventure.
There are a number of professional storytellers in the Capital Region. Kate Dudding is one. Her business card features her name, contact information, and her picture. Her title is Storyteller.
Dudding specializes in bringing history to life, she said. Recently, she’s been working on a story about John Singer Sargent, called, “John Singer Sargent: A Hard Worker and a Good Friend.” She got started because she loved the artist’s paintings and wanted to find out about the stories behind the paintings.
“I’m not a visual artist, so I wasn’t interested in his techniques,” Dudding said. “I was interested in who he was, and what motivated him.”
Dudding did research into Sargent’s life and works. She took out a number of books, and also spent a great deal of time studying his paintings. She looked for important incidents in the artist’s life and for his words. “I search for a person’s words, because I find those are very revealing,” she said.
Ultimately, she looks for a crisis, and from there constructs a beginning, a middle, and an end. For Sargent, the crisis was his mid-career burnout on portrait painting.
One the story is written, Dudding practices the telling, modifying the piece as necessary, “when you see confused faces or when people seem to be drifting off,” she said. Over the years, Dudding has learned to recognize the responses of her audience and to tailor her stories appropriately.
Storytellers have to engage more directly with their audiences than writers or actors, and as a result they become very sensitive to body language and facial expressions. It’s important to be able to see people’s faces, Dudding said. She likes venues that allow that sort of intimacy.