Every October, we celebrate National Arts and Humanities Month. This October, we are hosting an event called "Plot Device: Media & Storytelling." This event will explore the idea of storytelling in the age of technology, featuring three speakers who construct their narratives through unorthodox and unique mediums.
In preparation for our event, we asked Dr. Skeele, a theater professor at Slippery Rock University who teaches acting and playwriting and has directed over 40 shows, to share his thoughts on the arts and the importance of storytelling:
What drew you to the arts?
"The answer ties completely to the idea of story! I was obsessed with story from my very earliest years. My parents read to us and told us stories nightly, and it was the best and most important part of my whole day. I had a big wooden box filled with action figures and little plastic army men and cowboys and Indians, and I would spend untold hours creating scenarios with them. I lived in a wooded rural area, so trees and boulders and rocks in a stream became fantastical 'sets.' When I started school, I was way ahead of almost everyone when it came to reading, but I absolutely floundered in my understanding of math--and that was because abstract symbols were completely meaningless to me. However, give me a word problem where I could imagine the scene with people or animals--in other words, frame it as a story--and it became not only meaningful but exciting."
Do you consider yourself a storyteller?
"Absolutely! It drives everything I do as a writer, an actor and a director. In some ways, I feel I'm still out there on rocks in a stream, guiding characters through epic battles!"
Why is it important to you to tell stories?
"Stories are important to EVERYONE. They are what make sense of the total chaos of stimuli that is everyday life. They give us order and meaning and without them we would go completely insane."
What is your advice to arts students?
"Dig deep into yourself, be honest, be brave! I think artists are some of the bravest people on earth, and I admire them all. Also the luckiest and ultimately the sanest, because of the great relief it gives us to be able to hold our terrors and joys out at arms length and examine them. Not everyone is able to make a living as an art practitioner, but make sure that if you are one of those who is lucky and brave and sane enough to be driven to create, that you never stop creating!"
What inspires you?
"I just never know what is going to inspire me. Sometimes it's a news item, or sometimes it's a show where I start thinking what would happen if Character X did this instead of that? "
Why do you believe the arts are important to everyone, not just those in academia?
"I sometimes get students in my intro level theatre class who are skeptical about the importance of the arts, and we do an exercise where they are asked to consider every moment where they encounter the arts in a single day, from opening their eyes in the morning to closing them at night, and they can't believe how integral the arts are to their existence. In my opinion, the idea that the arts are some elitist, ivory-tower activity is idiotic. None of us can live without them; they are SO interwoven into the fabric of our existence."
What is something interesting that people might be surprised to learn about you?
"I love fresh-water snorkeling: my ideal retirement would involve lots of time exploring lakes and rivers looking for trout and bass and perch."
We hope you can join us next Tuesday, October 29th at 7:30 pm at Beans on Broad as we discuss and discover the multi-faceted nature of storytelling!
Our vision is to create a community of learners enriched, engaged and enlightened through the humanities.