Storytelling Review: “Disquieting, Disturbing, and Dreadful Tales”

Late on Saturday afternoon, October 9, 2010, I wrenched a leg muscle as I was leaving my day job.  Oh, man, did it hurt!  The last thing I felt like doing was going to a show.

However, that Saturday night was Storytelling Arts of Indiana’s second annual ghost story event for adults on the canal patio outside at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center in downtown Indianapolis.  No way was I missing it, so I hobbled on down.  I arrived just as the evening’s Master of Ceremonies, storyteller Cynthia Changeris, was welcoming everyone.

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Storytelling Review: Donald Davis & Carmen Agra Deedy in Indianapolis

This past weekend was the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee.  Performance storytelling lovers from all over the country – and even from other countries – gather to swap tales at this annual festival.  I’m talking thousands of people, sitting on folding wooden chairs crammed under huge tents, listening to individuals on raised platforms “just” talking into microphones…and being transformed.

There are now several big storytelling festivals around the country, but the one in Jonesborough is “Mecca.”  You want to hear the best tellers?  Go to Jonesborough.

I haven’t been able to get down to Jonesborough for several years, so I am doubly glad that Storytelling Arts of Indiana continues to bring some of those top tellers here to Indianapolis.

Two of those top tellers are Donald Davis and Carmen Agra Deedy.  (That’s Donald in the photo above.  I’m sorry; I don’t have a photo of Carmen.)

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Three Mini Reviews Plus Ghost Story News

There is SO MUCH performance art – creepy or otherwise – going on in the Indianapolis area this month!  I am working on three reviews, now:

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Storytelling Review: “The Flame of Love”

Patrick Ball and the Medieval Beasts - photo provided by Storytelling Arts of Indiana

On Sunday afternoon, October 25, 2009, I drove to the newly-renovated Indiana History Center on the canal in downtown Indianapolis to hear storyteller Patrick Ball and musicians Shira Kammen and Tim Rayborn (a duo known collectively as “The Medieval Beasts”) bring to life a piece called “Telling the Flame of Love: The Legend of Tristan and Iseult.”  It was presented by Storytelling Arts of Indiana and the Indiana Historical Society as part of the Printing Partners Storytelling Theater series.  It was sponsored by Lewis & Kappes, Fred and Midge Munds, Tom and Pat Grabill, and Ryan Zumbahlen.  Cathy Covey was the sign language interpreter.

It is a relatively new piece, I think.  Usually Storytelling Arts director Ellen Munds only brings to Indianapolis storytellers and storytelling shows that she has heard and seen before in other venues around the country.  When I asked her after this show where else she had seen it, she said that she had not, in fact, seen it before.  When Patrick Ball had told her about it, she was intrigued.  She trusted him enough based on past experiences to hire him based just on his description of the piece.

I’m glad she did.

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Storytelling Review: “Disquieting, Disturbing, and Dreadful Tales” on the Canal

Last Saturday night, my friend David picked me up and we drove to downtown Indianapolis to the Indiana History Center to hear “Disquieting, Disturbing, & Dreadful Tales” told outside on the canal.  We shivered more from the cold than anything else – neither of us was fully prepared for the sudden dip in temperature that night – but we enjoyed the stories, too.

The event was co-sponsored by the Indiana Historical Society and Storytelling Arts of Indiana.  There were five professional storytellers, including the mistress of ceremonies, Sue Grizzell.  They live in various parts of Indiana.  All five are recipients of the Sharing Hoosier History Through Stories grant sponsored by the two organizations over the years.  On Saturday night the featured tellers took turns standing or sitting before a microphone on a small raised platform decorated with pumpkins and bales of hay under two poles of bright theatre lights plus the regular lights from the IHC’s patio area.  As a group, the tellers offered a nice sampling of subtly different telling styles and stories from all over the world.

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Storytelling Review: “Tales of Now and Zen” by Motoko

Storyteller Motoko 

On Saturday, January 10, 2009, I drove downtown to the Indiana History Center to hear storyteller Motoko share “Stories of Now and Zen.”  The program was presented by Storytelling Arts of Indiana as part of the Barnes & Thornburg Storytellers Theater presenting the Creative Street Media Group Storytelling Series.  This particular event was sponsored by Marcia Baker.

It was a lovely evening of storytelling.

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Theatre Review: “You Are There” at the Indiana History Center

Walk through the mist and “You Are There” at the Indiana History Center 

Last Wednesday I visited the Indiana History Center.  Senior archivist Barbara Quigley encouraged me to visit the IHC’s special “You Are There” exhibit.  I am going to use the word “exhibit” to talk about it in this post, but really it is a visitor-led experience, and a wonderful form of interactive theatre/storytelling.  It is free of charge, and it is fascinating.

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Brenda Wong Aoki at the 2008 Hoosier Storytelling Festival

Storyteller Brenda Wong Aoki

Last Saturday afternoon I drove downtown to Military Park to hear several storytellers from around the country in the Printing Partners Hoosier Storytelling Festival.

One of the featured tellers was Brenda Wong Aoki.  I had never heard her tell before, but my sister had, in California a few years ago.  Bethany had sent me Aoki’s beautiful little gift book and CD, Mermaid Meat: the Secret to Immortality and Other Japanese Ghost Stories.

Aoki’s father was Japanese and her mother Chinese, which is a very unusual partnership because usually, as Aoki puts it, “Japanese and Chinese people hate each other.”  However, her parents fell in love and got married in spite of their families’ prejudices against each other.

In fact, the first story she told on Saturday afternoon was about growing up as a “short, fat, zitty, asthmatic kid” in the multi-racial urban neighborhood known as “The West Side” in Los Angeles. 

She is stunningly beautiful now, with a musical voice and a dance-trained body that moves gracefully and deliberately as she shares her stories.  She vocalizes her own sound effects and often uses a large wooden and silk fan, and sometimes her gorgeous, long, black hair, to help illustrate her stories.

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A Name for My Lincoln Project

AL on the five dollar bill

It’s been a while since I mentioned here on my blog that I have been commissioned to create a 90-minute storytelling piece on Abraham Lincoln to help celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth in 2009.  However, last night I turned in the title for it:

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Storytelling Review: “Swingin’ with Duke Ellington” by Bobby Norfolk

Storyteller Bobby NorfolkA week ago Saturday night (4-26-08) I drove downtown for a special storytelling collaboration.  Bobby Norfolk told “Swingin’ with Duke Ellington,” accompanied by pianist Pete Ruthenburg.  The event was presented by Storytelling Arts of Indiana and the Indiana History Center.  Joyce Ellinger interpreted the piece in American Sign Language.

I had heard Norfolk tell children’s stories before at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee and at a public library here in Indiana.   I enjoyed his exuberant, highly physical telling style this time, too, as he told about jazz composer and director Duke Ellington’s life.

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