“I usually tell people that I moved to Japan because I wanted an adventure…”
That’s how my “Hoosier in Tokyo” story begins. I’ll be telling it again this Saturday, November 2, at 7pm in the Indy Fringe Theatre building as part of the Frank Basile Emerging Stories Festival. The tickets are only $5 per telling, with your choice of eleven different tellers over the course of the three-day festival. There is more info on the Storytelling Arts of Indiana website. If this kind of thing interests you, I hope you can come!
In the meantime, I’d like to share some thoughts I’ve had as I’ve been revisiting this piece in preparation to tell it again.
Back in the Day
I first told this 45-minute storytelling piece for adults in 2006. That was the year I received the Frank Basile Emerging Stories Fellowship to develop it. That was eleven years after I had returned from living in Japan. Now it’s been eighteen years. For this festival here in 2013, I am supposed to tell the piece I developed for the fellowship, so that is what I will do.
It is odd to realize that “Hoosier in Tokyo: a Tale of Leaving Home and Finding It Again” has become an historical piece.
For example, there’s a line in it about the reliability of the Japanese train system: “If a train was scheduled to arrive at 9:02 then at 9:02 exactly, the train pulled up to the platform. Not 9:00. Not 9:05. Certainly not 9:30. 9:02. You could set your watch by it.”
I can’t remember the last time I wore a watch. Definitely no one carried a cell phone yet when I was living in Japan. (1990-1995) No one I knew had a computer, either.
It is also odd to realize how much my world has changed even since that 2006 telling. I hadn’t started blogging yet. I wasn’t on Facebook or Twitter yet. I loved to send and receive email but I still had never owned a cell phone. I skipped all the preliminaries and bought my trusty iPhone in 2007.
Revisiting “Hoosier in Tokyo: a Tale of Leaving Home and Finding It” here in 2013 feels good to me, though. I hope my audience, too, will be gently struck by the parts that are now historical. Even more, I hope there will be something in my storytelling piece that they can relate to in a timeless way.
As I revisit this storytelling piece, I’m also enjoying remembering that my “Hoosier in Tokyo” story is actually a small sampling of story types. The overall story is a personal tale: I went to Japan because I wanted an adventure. I had some adventures. And then I came home.
But woven within that personal tale is my version of the Japanese folktale, “The Boy Who Drew Cats,” plus an original literary tale called “The Man on the Bench,” plus another personal tale or two.
I say “The Man on the Bench” is a literary tale not to make a statement about its quality (some writers differentiate between “literary” writing and “commercial” writing) but to say that it is a piece of fiction as opposed to a personal tale, even though it has a first-person narrator and is based on several things that actually did happen to me while I was living in Japan.
I wrote “The Man on the Bench” when I had just come back to Indiana and needed a ghost story for another storytelling festival.
It’s Just Me, Telling from My Face
I did do a lot of writing in order to develop this piece, and I spent a lot of time learning it and (more recently) reviewing it, but let’s be clear: I won’t be reading anything aloud nor have I memorized anything word for word.
I also won’t be wearing a costume or running a fog machine or flashing the lights or whatever. There won’t be any dancing hotties or fake blood, much as I enjoy theatrical razzle-dazzle in other circumstances.
If all goes well, though, I will be fully present as myself and fully present to both the story and the audience in the moment. Oral tradition performance storytelling (how’s that for a mouthful!) at its best is an intimate, balanced, seemingly effortless blend of teller, listeners, and story. It’s as simple and as mystical as that.
That’s why I’m planning to go to all eleven tellings in this festival. I love being a “juicy-faced listener” (storyteller Pam McGrath’s expression for me) as much as I love being a teller. And I look forward to appreciating differences among my colleagues in terms of their stories and storytelling styles.
But I’m excited about telling this weekend, too.
Please wish me luck!
More Information about the Basile Festival and Fellowship
The Basile Emerging Stories Festival runs Friday, November 1 – Sunday, November 3, 2013 at the Indy Fringe Theatre building. There is a full line-up of the tellers and their times on the Storytelling Arts of Indiana website: http://www.storytellingarts.org/86.html
More information about the Frank Basile Emerging Stories Fellowship, including a link to a list of all 23 of the winners so far is here on the Storytelling Arts of Indiana website: http://www.storytellingarts.org/basile-fellowship.html
‘See you at the (storytelling) theatres!
Hope Baugh – www. IndyTheatreHabit.com and @IndyTheatre on Twitter.
(Note: “Lucky Cat” photo is by Christopher Anderton)
©Hope Baugh 2013