Good Lab interview with Jeanne Lambin on storytelling and improvizing

Good Lab member Jeanne Lambin comes from the United States. She came to Hong Kong in 2013 and started working on storytelling and improv performance since then. If you want to learn about the power of storytelling and why it matters, this interview would be perfect for you!

Who are you and what are you doing?

I am Jeanne Lambin. I am a storyteller, improviser, public speaker and consultant. Recently, I founded a company in Hong Kong called Lamb Ink (a pun on my last name), coincidentally it also means thinking it through in Cantonese. The web site is coming soon!

Most recently, I used to teach at University of Florida, and I helped organized their Center for World Heritage Research and Stewardship. For me, it was not the just the buildings, but the stories about the buildings that interested me. It was also during my time working in the field of heritage conservation when I became interested in storytelling and public speaking. I remember going to conferences and seeing people presenting their academic papers, about very interesting subjects in a way that was very un-interesting. I would instead try to present the paper and then tell a story, which was not the standard way of doing it, but some people seemed to like it more than the established ways.

(editors’ note: that reminds me of Dance your PhD

Then, the opportunity came to move to Hong Kong with my husband. I quit the teaching job in university, packed just a few books and headed to Hong Kong. Here I ventured into the world of storytelling and improv in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

That was quite an audacious act. What inspired that decision? Was it painful?

Yes, it was very painful! Much more so than I anticipated but one of the gifts of improv is that when an opportunity presents itself, you say yes. I try to improvize what life presents me with. There was a lot of fear and uncertainty, leaving family, friends, my home, my previous career, but I’m very lucky to be able to have such an opportunity present itself. Yes, it was painful, but at the end of the day, well worth it. Starting my own business, doing improv, working with HK Storytellers and starting my own business to teach storytelling, improvisation, and public speaking has been incredibly rewarding.

What exactly does improv mean? Why is it helpful?

To put it in simple terms, one of the basic “rules” of improv is saying “yes…and”. On stage this means saying yes to what is happening in the scene or game and adding to it. In life this can mean that when you are in any tough situation, rather than complaining about it, you can say, yes, I take it as it is, but let’s do something about it.

In fact, human beings have been improvizing since we have been around, otherwise we wouldn’t have made it to this day. Many consider Chicago to be the home of improv and since I grew up there, I started learning and practicing theatre and improv very early on. It certainly has shaped me as a person and made me more resilient in difficult times.

Tell us a bit more about the group called “Hong Kong Storytellers” you are working with. What is it about?

Hong Kong Storytellers is a meetup group that was founded by Tom Tiding and David Young two years ago. I joined the group last year, the first week I arrived in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Storytellers is for people who want to learn how to tell great stories. True stories—-first-person, personal, narratives. We run regular workshops for storytellers and, along with “Speak” produce 12 (or more) live shows per year. Our live shows are called “Hong Kong Stories” and are held at different venues in Hong Kong.

We have been organizing regular workshops in Tin Hau and monthly live shows in SoHo. At the open workshops we teach basic storytelling, work with people on their stories and ideally, help them prepare to tell their story at one of our shows.

It is amazing and incredibly rewarding process to work with someone through the process of coming to their first workshop, then telling their story at a live show.

You should come to our live shows, they are usually very packed and so much fun!

In September we will be having a week long festival, the Story Worthy Week, which will feature some of our best storytellers telling their stories, and David Sedaris, an internationally acclaimed humorist and storyteller will be making his debut in Honk Kong. There will be all sorts of exciting events and workshops, even a page to stage workshop for people who want to go from an idea for a story to performing it live over the course of a weekend.

If I want to learn more about improv or storytelling, what do you suggest I can do?

Find me at Good Lab (although because of travel I am not there nearly enough). Come to one of the Meetups for Hong Kong Storytellers, join Elgin Street Players or just contact me. We can grab a cup of coffee or tea. I will also be doing some workshops at Good Lab in the fall.

(photo credit: Jeanne Lambin)

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