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Fehler: Stories
An evening of errors

The Confabulation crew
The Confabulation crew | © Hanna S. Zopf

I had never been to the Goethe-Institute before last week (I didn't even know how to pronounce the name of the German poet and novelist!), and I was immediately entranced by glass and lights and books. I'm very tactile, I miss running my finger along spines on a bookshelf, but touch is ill-advised these days and my skin gets dry from public applications of hand sanitizer. I resisted the temptations all around me and focused on the event, though I fantasized about learning a new language in this magical setting.

By Lukas Rowland

Of course, the evening of Fehler was no quiet hour of study. We were about a dozen people, storytellers milling about or running around, trying to be in the right place at the right time and maintain physical distancing. That last part was difficult, some of us hadn't been in a room together since Confabulation's Shortest Story (in February 2020), and we were so excited to see each other again! And perform in a way we hadn't done before! Fehler had a frenetic energy similar to that of our annual tradition, albeit with face masks and no visible audience.

"Get it right"

The theme was mistakes, mishaps, missed opportunities even. It felt appropriate for my first time at a live-cast hybrid event. In one classroom, the feed played on a monitor with a slight delay, enough to hear an exclamation from the library and have it repeated a few seconds later on-screen. Storytellers shared their experiences in front of two cameras and the webcasting team, who switched from live feed to video to distant storytellers beamed in from all over the world.
  • Screen on smartboard © Hanna S. Zopf
    Waiting screen on the smartboard
  • The library of the Goethe-Institut © Hanna S. Zopf
    In preparation: The library of the Goethe-Institut
  • Production team © Hanna S. Zopf
    Producer team Joël and Martin
  • Lukas Rowland tells his story © Hanna S. Zopf
    The author tells his story
  • Sara Morley tells her Story © Hanna S. Zopf
    Sara Morley tells her Story
  • Sara Maleika tells her story © Hanna S. Zopf
    Sara Maleika tells her story
  • Ti Coleman on screen in the classroom © Hanna S. Zopf
    Ti Coleman on screen in the classroom
  • Production desk: Joël Bertrand © Hanna S. Zopf
    Production desk: Joël Bertrand
In the other classroom, another camera was set up so that introductions could be made before switching the feed to the library for a performance. I stood in this classroom watching the lens while fellow Confabulator Smriti Bansal told her story in the library area; I was unable to hear her though we were only separated by plate glass and bookshelves. Despite mistakes being the theme of the night, I kept repeating, "Get it right," to myself mentally as I waited for my cue.

            Then I told my story to a camera.

Just me and my story

I missed the live feedback I'm used to from an audience, and being able to look out at faces for reactions. As I've grown as a storyteller, I've learned to play off the crowd, and read them to know how long to pause or when to give significant looks. However, relaxing into the story, I found it felt much more intimate, like practicing in my bedroom without the pacing. I had no way of guaging any sort of reaction, it was just me and my story and doing my best to get it right.

I did make a mistake, by the way. I always do. Either I forget a few things I wanted to say, or a different word comes out than what I practiced. If I thought perfection existed in storytelling, I'd never take the stage for fear of falling short. You have to be ready to mess things up for the sake of learning. Every error has a chance to tell you something if you look at it the right way.


Missed the event? Here it is: