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Marc Laberge - Dans les medias
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He's a global
hopscotcher

Irene Silveus
The Elkhart Truth
Bristol, Indiana
Thursday, September 7, 1995

Marc Laberge travels the world
looking for adventures to share as a storyteller

Many of us dream of a life like the one Marc Laberge is living. Few of us could swing it. Laberge, 44, is an adventure photographer, a storyteller, an author and has a PhD in anthropological research on Indians. He hopscotches the globe, living the stories he wants to tell and then he crisscrosses back to tell them.

Reached in Washington just before the last stretch of his latest adventure, a 150-mile trek across the Cascades, Laberge says the parts of his unconventional life complement each other nicely. "It seems strange but it goes together because I have some stories about the places I go and the people I meet", says Laberge, who calls Montréal his home but spent five months on the road in 1994, logging more than 250 performances.

Because most of his storytelling gigs are performed in his native French, being on the road means not only French-speaking Canada, but francophone Africa, Europe and even Indonesia. He brings his audiences stories from the coldest regions of the world, where he has traveled, camped and taken pictures. "For them, I'm the guy from the North. I tell stories from Canada and Alaska and even Iceland", he says.

Like the landscape he loves, Laberge's tales are often reflections of the brutal truth of life. He tells no prettified fairy tales, but "life stories", often bleak and emotional accounts of real-life loss, strife and the struggle to conquer tribulation.

One of the more than 200 stories in Laberge's repertoire, for instance, is about the death of his brother in a car accident only two months before Laberge was born. "The children in my neighborhood ran to tell my mother that he had been hit by a car in the street and she went to see and there he was. He was 6", he says.

Laberge's appearance at the Bristol Hills Storytelling Festival will be one of only a handful of times he has told stories professionally in English. A great believer in the importance of nuance in the communication he shares with his audience, Laberge was initially afraid to ply his trade in a second language. "I was very, very shy to tell stories in English. I thought my English was not good enough," he says. "I thought your language had to be perfect if you were going to do this."

Once he tried, however, he discovered that his linguistic lapses provide a welcome element of suspense that keeps audiences hanging on the edges of their seats. "You know, when I am trying to find my words, people are trying to bet what am I going to do, what am I going to say", he laughs.

It is that psychological link between him and his audience, an almost tangible cord between minds, that makes Laberge love what he does. "When I go into schools and tell stories, I think that this is the most important thing that I can do", he says.

I tell the students, "There was nothing here, but you saw it. There was just you and me, but we saw the story. Where was it? And they touch their heads."

Tips from Laberge
So, you want to be a storyteller? Marc Laberge, a professional, gives this advice to would-be purveyors of tall tales :

Find a unique niche. "The first thing is that you have to be original. You have to do something that others don't do", he advises.

Pay attention to the subtleties of the voice, "The voice is extremely important. The vibration, the intonation, the emotion, these things make the story. I think that a story without emotion is not a story."

Sharpen your non-verbal communication to reflect the effect you want. "At least 50 percent of the communication is in what you do with your body. You have something like 80 different muscles in your face alone. That doesn't even include your hands", he says.

Learn from others. In preparation for his career in storytelling, Laberge went to festivals in Europe and would sometimes watch storytellers for 12 hours in a stretch. "You can always learn one or two things each time you watch a storyteller", he says. "I have gone just to watch and sometimes I did not hear the story. I was paying attention to the mechanics, the body language. There is no school for that."