A Limitless Resource that Every Actor Should Know About

March 26, 2015

What inspired you to become an actor? Are you driven to powerfully connect with your characters so you can give profound and poignant performances that touch audiences around the world? Are you compelled to leave a legacy of deep, meaningful work? If this sounds like you, you will likely find the resource of StoryCorps an intriguing tool to stretch beyond the personal experience on your quest to create genuine, authentic characters, and to dig more deeply into their motivations and personal narratives.

So, what is StoryCorps? Included at the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center, StoryCorps is the largest collection of human voices ever recorded. It’s an ever-growing library of the rarely-heard voices of ordinary or marginalized people speaking about meaningful aspects of their lives in 40-minute interviews. The resulting conversations have been described as pure, amazing, and fresh. The New York Times put it this way: “There’s nothing quite like [StoryCorps] in the American media. It’s an antidote of sorts to an oft-bemoaned media climate that rewards celebrity excess, political extremism, and bad behavior. It celebrates normalcy.”

The recordings are not made for entertainment, art, or educational purposes; nor are they intended to reach the masses. Rather, founder Dave Isay felt called to simply record and preserve the interviews for the sake of the interviews themselves. Isay says, “[From these interviews] I’ve learned about the poetry and the wisdom and the grace that can be found in the words of people all around us when we simply take the time to listen.”

Thanks to mobile phones and the StoryCorps app, the number of interviews in this digital archive has the ability to grow exponentially in the upcoming years.

Although these recordings are not made for artistic reasons, actors can certainly get inspired and informed and moved by them in order to develop their own unique and moving performances. If asked to play a war veteran, for example, you will likely find the recordings of veterans’ personal stories a worthwhile research tool. Whatever your character struggles through–issues with growing up, LGBTQ, romance, work, identity, family, friendship, etc.–you’re sure to get drawn into the hearts of those who have had similar trials. There are even animated shorts. And, if you ever need to cry on cue, some of these stories can get the tears flowing in no time!

Or, if you’re so inclined, you could add your personal story to the StoryCorps library.