by Taylor Bata and Yoo Jin Lim
On Wednesday, October 4th and Thursday, October 5th, Irish storyteller Niall de Búrca visited the American School of Warsaw to perform his stories.
For two days, de Búrca met students and told his stories to the elementary, middle, and high school. The topic and the plot of his stories were different for each grade level. The setting of the stories he told at ASW were mostly based on his hometown Dublin, Ireland.
On stage, de Búrca also acted with full range of motions and various facial expressions. Because he had to act as different people, he used diverse range of voices. He also encouraged the audiences to join by using motions to get closer. The response from ASW students was overwhelmingly positive, with quiet and attentive audiences in every session.
An Interview with Niall de Búrca
(American School of Warsaw)
Is your whole show memorized, or are parts of it improvised?
All of my stories are memorized; however, when I perform, I “run with the bones.” Oftentimes, I will scan my audience and improvise a part or two. Adding something new to a story is typical in a show of mine. So in a sense, some aspects of the story are indeed improvised, but the story itself is memorized.
What is your job like?
A typical day? For me, there is no typical day in my line of work. It’s extremely varied, but I always try to get into a good headspace to perform. I rise early in the morning, drink a cup of coffee, and get ready to perform. I like to arrive pretty early to wherever I have a show, to get a sense of the environment I will be performing in. While I have no set schedule for any work day, I like to try to do these things.
What kind of problems do you deal with? In my line of work, there are no problems. I absolutely love what I do. I don’t think that I have even encountered any problems that would affect my ability to put on a show. However, if I were to have a problem, it would be a physical one, like a broken leg that would inhibit by ability to perform.
Before a show, how do you mentally prepare yourself? Mentally preparing myself for a show really boils down to getting myself in a good headspace to perform. I love to scan the crowd to hype myself up. Taking deep breaths is another essential part of getting ready for a show. If I feel ready before I go out, I know I’m ready.
Where do you find your stories, or where do you get inspiration for your stories?
My stories come from everywhere. If I can come up with an idea for something, a story is always possible. For example, a while back, I was on a train in Berlin. I was reading a newspaper, and occasionally, I would look around the train to see the people. Suddenly an idea popped into my head, what if I made a story about a murder on a train? And thus a brand new story was born. I also find opportunities for stories in the classics. Sometimes I will retell an old story like the tale of King Midas’ Golden Touch, and see if I can give my own interpretation of it. A potential story is anywhere.
What skills are important for a career like yours?
In my line of work, you need to have a thick skin, the ability to stick to your guns, and the need to perform. These skills will take you far anywhere in the theatre world or in professional storytelling. Performing is very hard work, so be sure to be physically fit too. Above all, love the people. Give them an experience that they will remember, give them an experience that they will make them question the world around them. In a career like mine, if you can hold yourself up to these guidelines, you’re golden.