Elizabeth Lord — storyteller, actress and producer-host of Lord Franzannian’s Royal Olympian Spectacular Vaudeville Show — is one funny woman.
She’ll be showing it off in this weekend’s “Show Don’t Tell,” her first solo show in three years. Her last offering, 2013’s “The Swimsuit Area,” got serious, including such topics as abortion.
Lord recently tried standup comedy, and she’s found a new freedom and spontaneity within that form that she wants to bring into her story-telling shows.
“My style has evolved,” she said last week. “This show might lean more towards standup comedy than traditional storytelling.
“I’m giving myself permission and license to just do whatever I want onstage.”
What she wants to talk about in “Show Don’t Tell” is the theater, a world she’s been familiar with for decades as a performer, actress, director, producer and even the manager of a performance space, The Midnight Sun, which was her responsibility for years before Theater Artists Olympia took it over two years ago.
“The title refers to a direction that play directors and especially in the improv theater world use. It’s often told to actors to remind them — and here’s the irony — not to tell the audience what they are thinking and doing but rather to show them with facial expressions and body movements and so forth. ‘Show me. Don’t tell me.’ It’s the opposite of storytelling.”
I’m giving myself permission and license to just do whatever I want onstage.
Lord gets her stories, comic or not, directly from life. When she tells someone about her week — whether it’s in a conversation with a friend or while she’s hosting StoryOly, a monthly story slam held on the third Tuesday of each month at Rhythm & Rye in Olympia — she notices the reaction.
“If people are genuinely surprised or delighted or if they laugh, then I think, ‘Aha! This might be something worthy for the stage,’ ” she said. “I’ll make a note of it. I’ll find a title.”
She keeps her notes on 3-by-5-inch index cards, with the title on the front and details on the back. “I don’t write them like you would write a short story,” she said.
Cards that fit a show’s theme are eventually used to build an outline from which Lord will work on stage.
She generally sticks to the truth, although she notes that lying is one definition of “telling stories.”
What makes a story entertaining, she said, is not exaggerations but rather how it’s told, the comic timing, when the payoff comes.
And she’s a master of all of that, as those who’ve seen her previous solo shows, her work as the mustachioed Lord Franzannian or her many hosting gigs around town can attest. She outdid herself in 2011, when she told improvised stories as one of the vaudeville show’s acts, then returned shortly thereafter in Franzannian’s full ringmaster regalia to resume her role as the enthusiastic yet deadpan host. One year, she played not only Franzannian, but also the whole Franzannian family.
She’s been making Olympia laugh for years, so the idea of Lord as standup comedian isn’t hard to imagine. Still, although she’ll feel free to sprinkle her act with spontaneous witticisms, Lord won’t be tossing out punchline after punchline.
“Oftentimes, comics do short jokes: ‘Here’s a joke; here’s another joke; here’s an observation,’ ” she said. “They don’t tell a long story. But lots of comics over time have been storytellers, so I started calling the type of comedy I was doing ‘long form.’ ”
Show Don’t Tell
What: Storyteller and theatrical powerhouse Elizabeth Lord presents a one-woman show about life in the theater.
When: 8 p.m. Friday (April 22), Saturday and Sunday.
Where: The Midnight Sun Performance Space, 113 N. Columbia St. Olympia.
Tickets: $10-$20, with no one turned away for lack of funds. Available at brownpapertickets.com/event/2530637 and at the door.
Also: The show is intended for people 16 years old or older.