Jabberwocky: “Once Upon A Time” Stories

"Alphabet Soup Love" photo by basheertome

On Tuesday, February 9, I drove to the Indy Fringe Theatre Building in downtown Indianapolis for the second monthly “Jabberwocky” event of 2010. The first one had been a lot of fun, so I looked forward to the second one as well.  The “Jabberwocky” series of “rendezvous of Jabbers who share their life stories” is produced by Storytelling Arts of Indiana and the Indy Fringe Festival, and supported by IndyGo (Indy’s bus system.)  It is held on the second Tuesday of every month.

The theme for the February evening of stories was “Once Upon a Time.”  Philanthropist and arts supporter Frank Basile was the MC.  The featured tellers were Phoenix Theatre actress Gayle Steigerwald, Theatre on the Square director/actor Ron Spencer, and school media specialist/storyteller Celestine Bloomfield.

I enjoyed listening to all of them!

This was Gayle Steigerwald’s first foray into spoken word storytelling as opposed to acting.  Even though she confessed to being very nervous about performing without a script or other actors to play off of, she was a natural at storytelling!  She shared stories from her life as a professional actor over the years and made us all laugh again and again in sympathy.   Oh, my, I am laughing out loud again, remembering some of her tales of missed cues and mishaps back stage.

I think this was sort of a new experience for Ron Spencer, too, although maybe he has had more experience standing up in front of audiences as himself because he has to give so many curtain talks before shows.  I also assume he has to give presentations to his theatre board.  In any case, he, too, shared interesting stories from his theatre life, some of which were quite poignant.  For example, I was surprised to hear that he had followed his heart to Korea at one point, and directed one of his first shows there.

Both Gayle and Ron mentioned how grateful they were to the Indianapolis Civic Theatre (aka “Civic”) for introducing them to the theatre arts when they were quite young and for giving them their first encouragement as actors.  I hadn’t known this about either of them, either.

Celestine Bloomfield has been sharing stories with all ages of audiences all around Indiana for several years. I have heard her tell just about everything from ghost stories to historical stories to funny stories for families.   This was an all-adult audience, so she took the opportunity to share an adults-only Anansi story about the time when that trickster Spider Man stuck his penis up through a hole in a big log that lay across the path that women had to walk to fetch water from the river.  His purpose was to convince women that they should give men (who all lived in a separate village at that time) a chance.  As each woman stepped over the log, straddling it, she felt something…good, and lingered there for a while, rocking enthusiastically until she…was finished.

As I say, I have heard Celestine tell many different stories many, many times before, but that was a new story for me.  I am laughing and saying, “Oh, my goodness!” again, now, remembering it.  She told it well.

Later, just before the open microphone portion of the evening, Celestine pulled volunteers from the audience to come up and read aloud the steamy parts from her collection of romance novels.  Each of the volunteers gave it their best, and I admire Celestine for wanting to involve lots of people, but the energy of this activity felt odd and forced.  It also went on too long.  I think it might have squelched some shy people rather than encouraging them. 

At any rate only a couple of people volunteered to share stories when Frank said the microphone was open.  One was a joke story told by a man about how (supposedly) women urinate differently at different stages of our lives.  He told well, too, demonstrating the punch line with mouthfuls of water.

But oh, my, it was an odd, odd ending to the evening.

But you know what?  Unpredictability is one of the aspects of a live story swap that I love most.

Also, this was a particularly blizzard-y Tuesday evening, so no one wanted to linger a long time anyway, even though the building was warm and there were two kinds of yummy, hot, hearty, vegetarian soup to eat.  But I bet that on another, slightly balmier, evening, if we had just waited a little bit, the oddness would have worked itself out, and other kinds of stories would have come up again. 

Anyway, I was glad that I had put on my snow boots, cleared off my car, and driven downtown for this event.

In March…

The next “Jabberwocky” will be Tuesday, March 9, 2010, again at the Indy Fringe Theatre Building, 719 East St. Clair Street, Indianapolis (near the intersection of College Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue.) Doors open at 5:30 p.m.  Program begins at 6:00 p.m.  $10 admission includes hearty soup and bread.  There will also be a cash bar.

The theme this time will be “Off-key Musicians.”  Here is the blurb from the Storytelling Arts of Indiana website:

It’s not so much a night of tone-deaf musicians, or music played in the wrong key.  It’s more about the time when the show did go on, and it really shouldn’t have.  Funny.  Embarrassing.  And sure to hit all the right notes.  Join Jenny DeVoe, Jose Valencia, and Becky Archibald for an evening of off-key stories followed by an open-mike session.  During the open-mike session stories are limited to 3-5 minutes in length. The evening host is Travis DeNicola.

IndyGo Route 5, Route 11, Route 17 and Route 21 serve the Indy Fringe Theatre.

‘See you at the theatres!

Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com

Also follow @IndyTheatre on Twitter.com.

(“Alphabet Soup Love” photo, above, is by” basheertome,” from the Creative Commons section of Flickr.com.)

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