Join us for a series of little interviews with some of Austin’s most experienced and successful storytellers. Subscribe to Austin Storytelling, on the right, if you don’t want to miss one! Brought to you by Carol Ramsey at carolmramsey.com.
Max Langert’s background is in the theater, writing plays and monologues which have been performed around the country. He’s also a board member of the Austin-based playwrights’ group ScriptWorks (scriptworks.org), is a regular at Frontera Fest and has told stories with Testify and Listen to Your Mother. If we are lucky, we’ll see him at Testify again in the spring.
Q: When choosing which story to tell, what is most important?
A: The most important element of a story is whether it’s gripping. There should be suspense and some kind of payoff. But it also needs to be funny. In fact, maybe it has to be funny first and gripping second? Having both is pretty essential if I’m going to feel confident enough to get onstage and tell it.
Q: Do you prepare your story mostly by writing your story down or by telling your story out loud?
A: I always write first, and once I feel the story is in a good place on paper, I’ll start reciting it out loud to find out if there are additional changes I need to make. I think I’m able to be most critical reading something on paper.
Q: What strategies do you have for remembering the details of your story?
A: I don’t think I have any great strategies. It’s just repetition until I feel I have it down. One thing that helps me a lot is to try to recite the story while I’m jogging. All that time out on the trail running around is a great opportunity to get something to stick. When there are elements I’m regularly forgetting I’ll scribble a few key points down on a scrap of paper and refer to them as I’m retelling. But basically it’s just repeat, repeat, repeat.
Q: What advice would you give someone preparing their first story?
A: Maybe to think about a time that you’ve told a story or an anecdote to friends and seen their eyes light up. What caused others to really pay attention and be held captive by what you’ve said. Use those moments to craft the first story. A story is at its best when others are responding to it. A great story will keep people spellbound.
Q: Why do you perform true, personal stories?
A: The most emotionally rich and entertaining stories I’ve ever heard have been true and personal. When you see the vulnerability of a great storyteller onstage, it creates a captivating moment. Telling those stories can be cathartic and uplifting. And insightful too, for both the performer and the listener.
Q: If you could make up your own question, what would it be and what is the answer?
A: What the hell makes you think you can get up on stage and entertain people?
Oh man, what a great question! I’ve always been pretty shy and introverted. But I also always really appreciated a good story and thought I should be able to tell one. While I was doing a series of training sessions for my day job a few years ago I started to notice when I really had everyone’s attention, and also when I lost it. It made me realize how much of an impact the level of investment I have in what I’m saying affects others’ investment. And that was just running through some boring marketing slides.
So I decided to try doing this onstage with original material and see if I could replicate the results. It went pretty well, and the nerves and anxiety I felt beforehand were worth the reaction I got from the crowd. So yeah, it feels good to go through the process of writing and performing and I want to keep working on it.
Many thanks to Max Langert for his time and his stories! Check out his site at maxlangert.com.