Storyteller Alton Chung believes in connecting with others.
When he tells a story, he is 100 percent present—not worrying about dinner or laundry or bills.
“It is my belief that in our current society, we don’t get much of that kind of focused attention,” he explains.
“We are too busy checking our phones or thinking up a response to something someone said, instead of truly listening to them.
“I believe that there is a human need, a hunger for that level of connection.
“When I perform in a school and am present, I have observed that kids react to that.”
Chung has told stories for 18 years, stories from the Japanese experience in World War II, Asian folktales from around the Pacific Rim, and stories based on the Hawaiian Monarchy.
He got into storytelling somewhat by accident.
“I got into storytelling because I took a class from a local bookstore. I used to live in a small town in Oregon and I knew the owner of the local bookstore. I was reading his newsletter in his shop and asked him about an ad for a storytelling class. He said he had found a Post-It note on his desk with all the info about the class. He put it into his newsletter and then got a call from the lady on the note. She said she guessed she was teaching a class. It turned out that the Post-It note had been floating around on his desk for a year.”
He took the class, told a story that impressed the teacher, and it has been a wild ride since.
“I believe that most of us have learned to some extent to close ourselves off to protect ourselves from anyone who might want to do us harm. I have observed that it is difficult to connect with anyone when I am hiding behind my shields,” Chung said. “There is a heart connect, which is established when I lower my defenses, open myself up, and feel into the audience.
“It is a matter of relaxing, trusting and opening myself up to what is there. I focus on being present and try to look into the eyes of everyone in the audience.
“It is scary and thrilling at the same time.”