Many Voices of a Storyteller – interview with Sue Alvarez (30 July 2009)

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suealvarezIntroduction

Sue sent me a copy of the newsletter from the Australian Guild of Storytellers some time ago. I was very impressed with the layout and contents. I wrote to her to ask if she would like to be interviewed. She agreed and I’m glad. Without further ado, I have great pleasure in introducing you to Sue Alvarez …


Aneeta: Sue, thank you for agreeing to this interview.

Sue: Thank YOU Aneeta, for giving me this opportunity to feature in your excellent newsletter.

Aneeta: Let’s start with you. Please tell me a little of your story – where were you born, where did you grow up, what do you do for a living and where do you live now?

Sue:I was born in the seaside resort of Margate in the County of Kent, in UK. My birth took place in my Grandmother’s house, as my Mother was terrified of hospitals, much to my father’s dismay I gather! He was all for modern, progressive methods, and my Mother preferred to do things the old fashioned way. I carry their polarities on all things, even today, I must admit.

Having arrived safely into this world, my Mother returned to London, and the year being 1935 this was not such a good move, as war clouds were gathering, even then. In 1940, aged five, I was evacuated (along with 60% of London’s children) to the country away from the bombing raids on London and other significant Ports around Britain.  I grew up without seeing my parents for five years, in a tiny village called Seer Green. This village had one shop, one school, one Church, one Chapel, but two Pubs (public Houses, where “the demon drink” was sold!).The elderly couple, who very kindly took me in, were tee totollers, and very anti “the demon drink”.

Life was controlled by school, household duties, Chapel on Sundays, (repeat ad nauseam for five years). But it was SAFE

After the war, I returned to London, where life got more exciting, I’m pleased to say, and in 1956 , life got even more exciting , when I married a handsome, exotic native of Australia, and  that’s where I  have lived , in Sydney, ever since.

I have had many careers, including being a Drama Teacher, a Community Arts Officer, and Community Services Co-ordinator with Local Government, not to mention being the mother of three, and now Grandmother of four glorious teenage girls. Is being a boastful Grandmother a career option?

Aneeta: Yes! How did you get into storytelling and why?

Sue: How I envy people who say they are born Storytellers! I was brought up to be seen but not heard, so any natural ability to tell stories was repressed. I overcame this restriction in my teenage years by joining a local Drama group, and letting it all out! So I became interested in Storytelling through my experiences first as an Actor, then Drama Teacher.

Aneeta: You are involved, I understand, with The Australian Storytelling Guild. Can you please explain the purpose and aims of this Guild?

Sue:I am the Secretary of the NSW Branch of the Australian Storytelling Guild. Each of the five States has a Guild. Our Guild aims to promote “the many voices of Story” (this is our motto), by supporting, training, and providing opportunities for storytelling performances. A major focus is to recruit new members, both to tell stories and, as audiences, to enjoy listening to stories.

Aneeta: On the website, I am fascinated by this term, Narrative Oral Tradition. Clearly, it’s very much part of the Guild’s work. What does it mean?

Sue: Good Question! In Australia, we have a problem  defining exactly, what we as Storytellers  actually do for a living because  authors, film makers, visual artists, scientists, historians, all claim to be storytellers; e.g. they tell stories through their particular speciality; we use the term “Narrative Oral Tradition” in an attempt to describe more clearly what storytelling, as we know it, is all about; e.g.; standing up in front of an audience, looking at them, opening your mouth, and telling a story that has a beginning, middle and ending, and is a complete entity; we do not READ  stories. We use voice and body language, to get the message across. You won’t believe the number of times I am asked by people making enquiries about booking me “What books will you be reading?”

I don’t know if this is peculiar to Australia or not; do you have a similar problem?

Perhaps the term “Narrative Oral Tradition” is a bit over the top, by way of explanation, but it was born of necessity.

Aneeta: I see that you are part of something called ‘The Talespinners’. Can you please explain what this is all about?

Sue:  My Storytelling partner, Christine Greenough and I formed the tandem storytelling company “The Talespinners”in 1997.  It is great fun working in pairs, and I recommend more Storytellers to consider tandem telling. We also tell individually as part of our shows too, but audiences really enjoy the interaction between us and the Characters we are performing.

Aneeta: As you know, this website caters to storytellers. What advice would you give those who would like to venture into storytelling?

Sue: Join your local Storytelling Guild/Organisation/Club, and get stuck into it (to use a typical Aussie idiom!) You will be warmly welcomed, given much support and encouragement, and you’ll be on your way to being part of an exciting and challenging world.

Aneeta: Sue, this is all I have to ask. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Sue:  Only to congratulate you on your commitment and dedication to promoting the art and technique of Storytelling through your very informative newsletters; keep up the good work. Please let all your members know that if they ever come to Sydney to contact us on our website www.storytellersnsw.org.au and we will be pleased to meet and share stories.

Aneeta: Sue, thank you.

Sue: “No worries” Aneeta. (Australian for “my pleasure”)


This piece may NOT be freely reprinted. Please contact editor @ howtotellagreatstory.com for reprint rights.

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