Lisa Musgrave

Lisa is a Tutor at U3A Port Phillip. Lisa, who is a Storyteller herself, has conducted four sessions of ‘Storytelling for Fun’. During the final term of this year Lisa will be tutoring ‘Public Speaking’.

Lisa returned from America 6 months ago, having been away from Australia for 21 years. Just prior to the life changing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Lisa had moved to Portland, Oregon, with the aim of commencing something like a Storytelling business, although she had no clear conception at that time of how this might evolve.

However, being unable to move around, or make new social contacts, “My entire social life for 2 years was on Zoom,” particularly with her friends in Melbourne. So, she figured, when the pandemic was more or less at its end, why not return to Melbourne? Her adult daughter was settled in America. “So, I came home looking for things to do that are creative.” Lisa resides in her recently purchased apartment near the Catani Gardens. Her parents live in the area.

So, what to do? Lisa was familiar with U3A and thought, “Well I like telling stories.” She used to be a teacher and thought U3APP seemed like “a great place to find people who probably had some interesting life experiences,” and who also enjoyed writing.

Casting back to her childhood years, Lisa described one family storytelling tradition, ”That you always interrupt! Whoever is telling a story you always interrupt them and do whatever you can to push them off the topic, and they will keep trying to come back to it.” Perhaps good training for the debating skills which Lisa developed during her secondary school years.

During her early adult years in Melbourne, Lisa developed skills in business and served on a number of Boards.

Interestingly, Lisa was invited onto the Board of ‘The Big Issue’ just as it launched. “It was a fascinating project.” Lisa recalls the effort it took to obtain sponsorship as it was a unique business model. They needed to encourage homeless people to turn up once a fortnight to pick up their magazines and then go onto the street and sell them. “We knew we had to have compelling stories, we had some very good journalists and a very good Editor. It was very eye-opening, it is one of the things that I am proudest of.”

Lisa was aged 37 years when she moved to live in America with her then husband and five-year-old daughter. She later became a teacher, “almost on a whim.” Each year, her school would have a multicultural week. It was suggested that she teach the students how to throw a boomerang, “Of course, we all know how to do that!” Lisa laughed, as she recounted this story. She purchased some boomerangs, went to the park, and taught herself first! However, “One of them hit the PE teacher, so we weren’t allowed to throw them after that!”

Reflecting on her return to Melbourne, Lisa observes, “there is a lot of open space in my life. I have many interests, but I have room for new and interesting connections.” She muses, “I never stop thinking. During the pandemic, there was no hugging friends, neighbours stayed out of the way, I spent fourteen months of the pandemic, inside my own head, having a lovely time.”

Lisa has performed at The Moth, a monthly storytelling event in Melbourne, standing on stage telling a 5-minute true story, to a set theme, in front of an audience. She is very modest about her Moth performances, and her rather stunning rate of success.

Lisa views humour as an “icebreaker.” When performing, she likes to connect things in an unusual way. The audience may be expecting the joke to go this way, then it goes another way. “Hannah Gadsby does this very well.” Lisa was at one of her shows recently, the first show since the Queen died. Hannah came out and said, “Big day,” the audience laughed, “There is going to be a period of adjustment, we have to get used to saying King Charles the Third instead of”… you think she is going to say, instead of Queen Elizabeth the Second, but she says …“instead of King Charles spaniel!”

Lisa believes humour “puts people at ease, and helps you connect.” As a teacher, she observed that nobody learns if they are stressed. The quickest way to get someone to relax is to get them to laugh. When on stage, Lisa aims to get a laugh within the first 30 seconds. “It not only relaxes the audience, it also relaxes me. If my first three jokes fall flat, then I am really struggling, I have not connected.”

Reflecting on the upcoming ‘Public Speaking’ course at U3APP, Lisa considers that it is necessary to create a space where people feel safe and supported. Stories can be funny, tragic, personally revealing. ‘Public Speaking’ has a broad audience. It may be that someone has been asked to make a toast at a wedding, or a birthday celebration, or people may simply want to feel more confident in social situations. Lisa finds it very humbling to find something that comes naturally to you and then teach that to others.

Lisa writes consistently, sending her work to various short story competitions. This ensures that she writes regularly and completes the work. She hopes to be published, perhaps in the not-too-distant future, hinting that something may be pending.

Lisa enjoys walking along the beach, eating out with friends. She refers to two distinct friendship groups. One involves Lisa’s growing interest in astrology, (she is a Leo, for those who may be wondering), and her past school and work friends. Lisa is comfortable in either group and she is okay with her old friends laughing about her astrology club.

As to the future, this is “very open.” At a rather difficult period of her life, Lisa adopted a good friend’s attitude of saying, ”YES, to everything.” A refreshing and yes, spirited, way of facing the future.

Felicity May interviewed Lisa.

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