My Christmas (Show) Wish List

Christmas in Love - photo by Kris de Curtis

Due to a debillitating cold, I missed NewKey’s production of “Greater Tuna.”  It was the first show at the Indy Fringe Festival’s new space.  Drat!  Now I’m more-or-less healthy again, but due to lack of time, I still won’t be able to see everything I want to see in what’s left of 2008.   Here is what I would like to see in the next month or so, if I had unlimited time, in alphabetical order by production company:

Continue reading My Christmas (Show) Wish List

Thank You, Readers!

Thanksgiving Feast - photo by Victoria Williams 

I am thankful for many reasons on this Thanksgiving Day.  One of the many reasons is that this blog is now a big part of my life.  I have managed to keep it going for almost a year now.  According to my web hosting provider, my blog had 4688 unique visitors and 91,979 hits last month.  Thank you, thank you, readers!  Thank you, people who leave comments and patiently wait for me to “approve” them.  Thank you, lurkers.

Thank you, fellow bloggers, who have given me praise and encouragement via your own blogs:

For example, professional storyteller Tim Ereneta said last month in a post that featured my blog:

As far I as I can tell, Hope Baugh is the only person in North America blogging about live storytelling performance from the perspective of the discerning audience member, and by doing so, educating her readers (many of whom are interested in live performance (theatre) and may not be familiar with storytelling) about the art form.

Professional storyteller Elouise Schoetler stumbled across my blog last month when she was looking for news of Kevin Kling and called it “a gem”:

Someone named Zeljan Topic who writes about blogging in general included my blog on her “Here are 30 Storytelling Blogs You’ll Love” list earlier this month (after the link, scroll down):

Priscilla Howe, professional storyteller and co-producer of the “Going Deep” storytelling festival, was one of the first bloggers to link to me.   She said, “I love reading Hope’s reviews, because she lets her whole self shine through, without letting the posts be self-indulgent”:

Kyle Lacy, who introduced me to and who writes enthusiastically about social networking in a way that both exhausts me and inspires me, included my blog on his list of  “Top 50 Bloggers in Indianapolis” a few days ago:

Humorist Erik Decker (another regular) also gave me a sweet shout on his Laughing Stalk blog recently:

I am very grateful for all of this kind attention!

I am grateful to for letting me a) RSS feed my whole blog to my profile there and b) post selections from my blog on the SI home page.

I am glad that the folks at the Worth Your Attention blog quietly added me to their blog roll, too.  I was honored when they linked to my post about the Spotlight Players’ move to a new space.

One of my very first “incoming link” visitors from someone other than (IA) or Lou Harry’s Arts & Entertainment blog on the Indianapolis Business Journal website was via  I was surprised to click on the incoming link and see my blog appearing on the Official Website of the Indiana Convention and Visitors Association, but then I remembered giving my blog card to someone from this organization at the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s season preview breakfast last March.  I assume that that is who occcasionally adds a theatre review from my blog to the ICVA’s blog sampler.  Whoever does it, I really appreciate it!

And speaking of and Lou Harry, I appreciate that I can post links to my theatre reviews on IA.  Members of the community on IA have always encouraged me to keep writing publicly about theatre.  That means a lot to me.

And while I try to add interesting content to Lou’s A&E blog via my comments on his posts, I shamelessly promote my own blog there, too.  I am very grateful for that opportunity. (Plus, it’s just fun to hang out with Lou and his readers talking about the arts over at the IBJ.)

I am grateful to all of the arts managers in the Indianapolis area who take my blog seriously by sending me press releases and publicity photos, and by offering me media passes.  I can’t tell you what a thrill this is.  It’s not the same as getting paid to write theatre reviews, but it is pretty darn cool.

And finally, I want to thank everyone – the actors and musicians and storytellers, the directors and coaches, the designers and writers, the staff and volunteers, the producers and angels – involved in making good, live theatre and storytelling in the Indianapolis area.  It is a pleasure, a deep, deep pleasure, to experience your art and to write about it.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Hope Baugh –

Liz Warren’s List of Differences Between Storytelling and Theatre

Story Teller - photo by Nick Piggott

I’ve been updating my syllabus for the graduate-level class on storytelling that I will teach for the Indiana University School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) on the Indianapolis (IUPUI) campus next semester. 

I am excited because five students have already signed up.  I’m sure the university would like there to be more than five students in order to pay the bills, but from a teaching point of view, five is not bad.  Students get to hear four other telling styles besides mine, yet they still get a lot of chances to tell themselves. 

The smallest group I ever taught had three students in it.  I liked all three of those students just as people, so the challenge that year was making sure that we continued to explore storytelling in a scholarly way rather than spend each class just gabbing. 

The largest group I ever taught had twenty-four students in it. I thought I was going to die on the last day of class, trying to evaluate twenty-four tellers sharing twenty-four different stories.  It was too many “worlds” to take in at once.  I went home after that story listening marathon and just lay on my bed and quivered for a day or two.  If I ever have that many students again, I will structure the course differently.  

Five-ten students is ideal for me, but in any case I will tweak my syllabus according to the number of students I have when the semester begins.

I have decided to use Liz Warren’s new book, The Oral Tradition Today: An Introduction to the Art of Storytelling, as our textbook.  Even though she wrote it to use with the more general, undergraduate class on “The Art of Storytelling” that she teaches at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, Arizona, I think it will work well for my graduate-level workshop on storytelling in libraries, especially when supplemented with library-related articles.  I like the way each chapter in Warren’s book includes a few teaching stories as well as instruction and theory.

Early on in the book (page 6), Warren addresses the question, “What is the difference between storytelling and theatre?”  I love her answer:

Although many modern storytellers have a background in theatre, there are some fundamental differences between being a storyteller and an actor, and between a storytelling event and a play.

  • First, most storytellers do not memorize a script as actors do. They prefer to learn (but not memorize) a story – thoroughly and deeply – so that when they are telling it, they can respond freely to the particular audience in attendance. This provides dynamism, unpredictability, and freshness to storytelling that is very satisfying for both the teller and the listener.
  • A storyteller does not maintain the persona of a single character. The teller portrays all the characters in the story while remaining herself.
  • Actors generally relate to other actors on the stage rather than directly to the audience. In the theatre, there is the concept of the fourth wall, an invisible wall through which the audience witnesses the events on stage. In storytelling there is no fourth wall, or if there is, it is behind the audience. Storytellers seek to establish a relationship with the audience, at least for the duration of the story, and believe that the stronger the connection between them and the audience, the stronger the impact of the story. In some storytelling events, a high degree of participation from the audience is expected and encouraged.
  • Storytellers do not use directors. In theatre, the director is responsible for interpreting the text and directing the actors in fulfilling the vision. In a storytelling event, the teller is responsible for the interpretation of the story, its development and delivery. Storytellers do, however, often use coaches who help them interpret and actualize their vision of the story.
  • Storytellers do not use sets, props, or costumes. A storyteller seeks to create a world inside the listener’s mind. It is her job to communicate this with words and her body rather than with objects. In this sense, the story is co-created by the teller and the listener in the moment of the telling. Many storytellers believe that props, sets, and costumes can interfere with this process.

Of course, there are exceptions to every single one of the above points.  Some storytellers use directors, some use props and costumes, some portray a character while telling, and some memorize.  Nonetheless, the distinctions above would apply to most tellers.

Thank you, thank you, Liz, for articulating this!  And thanks for taking a sabbatical to write the whole book.  I am looking forward to teaching with it.

Hope Baugh –

Our Own James Still in the New York Times Today

Inside Ford’s Theater - photo by Dustin P. Smith

I mentioned a few days ago that James Still, playwright-in-residence for the Indiana Reportory Theatre, is working on a new play about Abraham Lincoln.  It will premiere at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C., with David Selby as Lincoln.

There was an article about the debut in today’s New York Times:

Arts, Briefly
Ford’s Theater Returns
Published: November 23, 2008
Ford’s Theater, the Washington institution that was home to the most notorious production of “Our American Cousin,” will have its grand reopening in February, the theater’s board announced. The events, which include a ceremony on Feb. 11, will coincide with the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, who was shot by John Wilkes Booth at the theater on April 14, 1865. The building, which was also used as an Army medical museum and a government warehouse, was restored in the 1960s and reopened as a theater in 1968. In February an 18-month-long renovation will be completed. Among the events planned for the theater’s reopening are the premiere of “The Heavens Are Hung in Black,” a new play about Lincoln by James Still, and the awarding of the Lincoln Medal, which the board said honors accomplishments that “exemplify the character and lasting legacy” of Lincoln. The recipient will be the “Star Wars” director George Lucas.

I am excited for James all over again. Go James!

But also I am trying to get my mind around the idea of George Lucas exemplifying the character and lasting legacy of Abraham Lincoln. 

I think I need to read some more about Lincoln.  Or George Lucas.

Hope Baugh –

“Holiday Melodies” in Danville

Vocalist Jodi Wingler - Photo by

On Saturday night I drove west of Indianapolis to Danville to meet my friend, actor Jack Gramling, for a two-part concert to benefit the Danville High School band department.  The concert was called “Holiday Melodies.”  I suppose that it does not, technically, fit the scope of this blog, but I want to write about it here anyway.  It was live entertainment, it was fun, and it introduced me to some new stories through song.

Continue reading “Holiday Melodies” in Danville

Storytelling Review: More Alike Than Not: Stories of Three Americans – Jewish, Catholic, and Muslim

Storytellers Gerald Fierst, Susan O’Halloran, and Arif Choudhury

On Thursday night I drove to the Arthur M. Glick Jewish Community Center to hear three professional storytellers present “More Alike Than Not: Stories of Three Americans – Jewish, Catholic, and Muslim.”

This program was the result of a wonderful collaboration.  It was presented by the Congregation Beth-El Zedeck, the Jewish Community Center, the Muslim Re-entry Network of Indiana, the Pacer Foundation, St. Luke’s Methodist Church, Storytelling Arts of Indiana, and the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis.  The planning committee included Betty Brandt (St. Luke’s), Michele Goodrich (YMCA), Shari Lipp-Levine (Beth-El Zedeck), Ellen Munds (Storytelling Arts), Khabir Shareef (Muslim Re-entry Network), and Naomi Troup (Ann Katz Festival of Books.)

It was supported by the Performing Arts Fund, a program of Arts Midwest funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, “which believes that a great nation deserves great art,” with additional contributions by the Indiana Arts Commission, General Mills Foundation, and Land O’Lakes Foundation.

I am very grateful to all of these people and organizations because this free evening of live, professional storytelling for adults was a real treat.

Continue reading Storytelling Review: More Alike Than Not: Stories of Three Americans – Jewish, Catholic, and Muslim

Storytelling Collaborations

I have been at the Indiana Library Federation’s annual conference in downtown Indy for the past three days.  It has been invigorating for my day job, but it has also given me good food for thought for this, my blog-job.

For example, one of the sessions was called “The Fine Art of Booking and Tending to Performers for School and Public Libraries.”  Ellen Munds from Storytelling Arts of Indiana and Joshua Wolf from the Monroe County Public Library were the speakers. 

They talked about the three basic elements of performance contracts – the offer, the agreement, and the money – and about the usefulness of an accompanying questionnaire to address the things not covered by the contract.  They also talked about how to take good care of performers – meeting them at the airport, sending thank you notes afterwards, etc.

Someone in the audience asked how to find performers.  Ellen told about the storyteller directory that is part of the Storytelling Arts of Indiana website.  She said, though, that tellers pay to be in this directory, so they are not endorsed by Storytelling Arts.  They also are earning at least a part of their living as storytellers, so people who are looking for artists to work for free should not expect to find them in the directory.

Ellen recommends that people looking to hire a storyteller read the descriptions in the directory and then call the tellers that interest them to ask for references.  “But the best thing is to go see their work for yourself.”  She never hires anyone for the Hoosier Storytelling Festival or the Story Theatre series or anything else unless she has already seen that person telling to other audiences, usually more than once.

Someone else asked about advertising performances, especially since newspapers around the state are really dropping the ball in terms of getting the word out about arts and library events that are happening in their communities.

One suggestion that Ellen gave was to collaborate with other organizations so that you don’t have to get the audiences all by yourself.  For example, tonight there will be a storytelling program for adults at the Jewish Community Center called “More Alike Than Not: Stories From Three Americans – Jewish, Catholic, and Muslim.”  Several organizations have worked with Storytelling Arts of Indiana to make it possible.  (Watch for my review of this event in a day or two.)

On Friday, December 5, 2008 and Saturday, December 6, 2008, Storytelling Arts of Indiana will collaborate with the Indiana History Center to present “Love, Work, Mistakes, and Miracles: A Night of Story and Song,” featuring singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer and Grammy Award winning storyteller Bill Harley.

More info about both of these programs is available here.

Hope Baugh –

News About James Still’s New Play, “The Heavens Are Hung in Black”

Photo of the Lincoln Memorial by chadh

My first “Conversation with…” on this blog was with James Still back in May.  He is the playwright-in-residence for the Indiana Repertory Theatre.  In the months since our original conversation, we have kept in touch.  He continually inspires me, and I treasure the encouragement he has given me for my “Of the People: Stories and Images of Abraham Lincoln” storytelling piece.  It will debut at the Indiana History Center at 4:00 on Sunday, January 18, 2009 as part of the “Sharing Hoosier History Through Stories” collaboration between the IHC and Storytelling Arts of Indiana.

James has been working on a Lincoln project of his own.  His new play, “The Heavens Are Hung in Black,” will debut on February 8, 2009 at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC.  Earlier this week, he shared with me (and gave me permission to share with you) the exciting news that the Washington production has been cast.  David Selby will play Lincoln!

I wish I could be in Washington for the opening night of “The Heavens Are Hung in Black.”  I loved seeing James’ “Iron Kisses” and “Looking Over the President’s Shoulder” at the IRT earlier this year.

However, I will look forward to seeing it when it comes to Indianapolis.  In the meantime, I am looking forward to seeing another new play of James’ at the IRT this spring.  It is called “Interpreting William” and is loosely related to our own Conner Prairie.  I have tickets for May 15, 2008.  Maybe I will see you there!

Hope Baugh –

2009 Indy Fringe Festival Applications Now Available

Cropped Indy Fringe theme art - original piece by Emma Overman

The 2009 Indy Fringe Festival will take place August 21-30, 2009.  Applications for performance groups are now available on the Indy Fringe website (  The number of show slots is limited, so if you have been thinking of applying, get busy.  The slots fill up quickly!

2009 will be the fifth Indy Fringe Festival.  It will be my third time to attend.  The 2007 Indy Fringe was my first ever “paid” gig as a reviewer.  I received a media pass in return for writing about the shows on  I have had my differences with IA’s owner, Joe Urban, but I will always be grateful to him for asking me to help IA cover the Fringe. 

I started my own blog in January of this year.  When August came around, I asked for and received a media pass to see and write about Fringe shows for my own Indy Theatre Habit.  I took a week off from my day job and reviewed 30 of the 2008 Indy Fringe shows (and thought I was going to die before I was through, but it was worth it!)  Here is a directory of my 2008 Indy Fringe reviews.

I am looking forward to the 2009 Indy Fringe, too!

Hope Baugh –

Theatre Review: The Sapphire Theatre Company’s “Lysistrata”

Poster for the Sapphire Theatre Company’s production of Lysistrata - designed by Hugh Arthur

Last Sunday afternoon I parked in the Sun garage and took the escalator up to the fourth floor of the Circle Centre Mall to see “Lysistrata,” written by Aristophanes and adapted by David Orr and director Bonnie Mill.  This was the first production of the new, professional, Sapphire Theatre Company.  You may remember that I wrote about their “Women’s Meet and Greet” event a few weeks ago.

I enjoyed this production for the reasons that I enjoy a good beach read:  it is fluffy and it includes a lot of sexy people thinking almost constantly about sex.

(By the way, this show is rated by the theatre “A” for Adult content.  Just so you know, if I gave age ratings for my reviews, I would rate the following comments as “A” for Adult, too.)

Continue reading Theatre Review: The Sapphire Theatre Company’s “Lysistrata”