An Interview With Roisin the Storyteller

 

One of the premier storytellers at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, Roisin (Stories by Roisin) enchants young and old alike with her Irish fairy tales. She has recently released her first CD of stories, The Good Neighbors, and Shire Mom is honored to have the chance to interview her!

 

  • Q: Roisin is an interesting name! How did you pick it? How do you pronounce it?
    • A: Haha! This question always makes me laugh. I wish it was more of a profound story, but I honestly found a few Gaelic names that I thought were pretty and whose meaning I appreciated, then asked for advice. Roisin (roh-sheen) means “little rose.” Quite a number of people I asked thought it fitting. I personally didn’t see it. As my first season went on, kids at the festival kept bringing me small roses to decorate my hair, or my bodice. I was also the youngest (adult) character at Irish Cottage that year, and I bloomed more there than I ever anticipated. So, in a dozen little unexpected ways, Roisin turned out to be just right.
  • Q: How long have you been telling stories?
    • A: Professionally? My debut season (2014) with Minnesota Renaissance Festival was the first time I pursued storytelling as a craft. Prior to that, stage acting was my forte… However, if you ask my family, I have been st since I learned how to string words together.

  • Q: What story is your favorite?
    • A: Oh, goodness! What a tough question! I have different characters and bits that I love to tell for different reasons. I think my favorite story over all, ends up being “The Two Giants.” It’s my re-telling of the story of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and the Scottish giant. I love it because, what begins as a fun, silly story about brawn and bravado becomes a little tale of wit. It was so unexpected to me the first time I heard it. I endeavor to bring that fun discovery to the audience every time I tell it.

  • Q: How do you pick your stories?
    • A: There are a few things I look for, particularly as I groom stories for festival settings. I know that my audiences will span a huge age range. Many times, I find that stories that have persisted the longest, and can be found in the most variations are the strongest. After all, if a story has persisted for years through oral tradition, that story is likely one that naturally appeals to a large audience.

  • Q: Can you talk a little bit about your process for turning the printed word into performance art?
    • A: Absolutely! With a background in theatre and literature, I like to break down stories to fundamental concepts. It starts with finding compelling moments, identifying what the main character has to lose or gain from the story. The next most powerful moments are the transitions, how the character(s) change from beginning to end. The final step is to look for moments to engage the audience (my favorite part!). After that, it all depends on trial and error. If I get it in front of an audience and they don’t love it, I change it – plain and simple. That’s why I cherish my fans and audiences so much. They are an essential part of shaping the stories themselves.

  • Q: What’s the most heartfelt reaction you’ve had from an audience member? The funniest?
    • A: Oh gosh, such a tough question! There have been so many great ones, all so different! One that sticks with me: I had a young lady in the audience last year who came in very reserved, looking a little overwhelmed and underwhelmed all at once. She was with her father and sister. She was very quiet and sad for the first story I told, but as the stories went on she started to light up. When her family tried to nudge her out the door to go see other attractions, she left only on the promise that they come back for more stories later (which they absolutely did!) Those are the moments that get me. When you watch someone’s face come alive, when the stories change them, those are the most rewarding moments as a storyteller.

  • Q: You recently released a CD – The Good Neighbors. How did you pick the album’s title?
    • A: This particular CD focuses on stories of fairies or similar creatures from Irish fairy tales. The Good Neighbors is moniker commonly used for fairies in Irish tales, so it seemed only fitting. I also enjoy the picture it paints – that perhaps these creatures are so much closer to us than we realize.

  • Q: How did you decide which stories were included?
    • A: I decided pretty early on that fairy tales (true fairy tales) would be the focus of the CD, so that helped. Once I nailed that down, it was a matter of finding balance. I looked for a balance between short stories and long, silly and more serious, stories of realization and reward. It was a fun process, but one that I am sure will change some as time goes on.

  • Q: Did you have to adjust your storytelling at all with the change of medium (live performance vs audio-only recording)?
    • A: In fact, it was almost staggering to me once the project got underway, how differently the stories had to be tailored. In live versions of stories I will often have the audience help me with gestures or sound effects. For the CD, I couldn’t do that. The largest challenge I faced was how to keep up the excitement and engagement, while knowing that my audience: 1. would not be able to see my face, expressions, or movements and 2. would not be actively engaging in stories the same way. (It was also very hard not to knock the mic over or jump out of my chair while we were recording!)

  • Q: Can you talk a little bit about the recording process?
    • A: Recording was a whole new experience for me. Thank goodness for the team I had working with me. My producer Annelise made sure I got there with my head on straight and without throwing up (I was so nervous!) Anita, my audio engineer, was the picture of calm and did an excellent job preparing me for the set up, working with my timeline, talking to me about what would read well and what wouldn’t. She was every bit the guidance I needed for my first audio project. And Jay! I knew I wanted music for the CD, but I had no clue where to start. I put together a very rough list of emotions I associated with each song, and went over the gist of the stories with him. When Anita emailed me the music he had come up with, I cried – it was everything I wanted and the perfect final touch for the album.

  • Q: Do you have any forthcoming projects you’d like to talk about?
    • A: Wellllll – a storyteller’s work is never done! I can’t release any project details yet, but I can say that there will be more stories to take home in 2018. Announcements for upcoming projects are put up on social media and on storiesbyroisin.com/news-blog – so stay posted!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*