Sunday, August 23, 2009

East meets West

Hungarians can't seem to agree about the location of our country. Some say Eastern Europe, others say Central Europe (and are seriusly offended by being called Eastern), many say Easter-Central-Europe, some say Balkans, and there is also a rumor that if you put the map of Middle Earth on top of Europe, we would be in the dead middle of Mordor. Go figure.
Whatever the case is, from a Western point of view we tend to look strange and exotic. It took some getting used to, when I wandered overseas, but I think I can live with being unique :) Which brings us to a new piece about the above (um, below) mentioned FEST conference and festival.
Eastern Europe (for the time being let's agree on this) was represented by the three of us: Birgit from Vienna, Jitka from the Czech Republic, and yours truly. You could say the Habsburg Monarchy reassembled for a guest performance... none of the three countries has any official storytelling organization or network (yet!), so we tended to stick together, first out of curiosity and shared experiences, then out of friendship. We talked, and talked, and talked some more, and we sang, and we laughed, and we made a storyteller out of Jitka who only came to observe the conference for ther phd research. Turns out she isn't only talented in telling, she also sings very well :)
Long story short - the Eastern European Special Interest Group came into being. Yay!

As for Hungary...
I told three stories at the festival; two of them were Hungarian folktales and one was a great story from the American South, which I coudn't help but tell at one of the evening story swaps. (I'm thinking there are some people out there who wouldn't think it appropriate to tell an American story when I'm out in the world, representing my culture and my country all alone... well, those are the people I don't really care about)
The first story was that of the Sad Prince (I'll put it on this blog later). It's more like a story opening, really; it's short, it's simple, and it fell right into place at the first evening of the festival. People seemed to like it. A lot. And when some telers cem up to me afterwards and asked me if they were allowed to tell the tale, I couldn't have been more proud... not of myself, but of the story!
(What did I say? Of course I said yes. Folktales are supposed to travel! :)
The success of the Sad Prince gave me a lot of self-confidence for the next day, when my performance was the very last one of the festival. I spent a lot of time pondering about which Hungarian tale to tell; actually, I have been thinking about it for months, and I came up with the right story on the morning of that very day. This is how it usually works with me.
The story I chose was that of Ludas Matyi (I'll also post it on this blog later, or maybe include it in my next Multicolored Newsletter... we'll see). It's a kind of trickster tale, funny and smart, and it includes some characters that are from other countries (or so they say). I had the silly idea to have some of the other tellers help me with the tale... it was already too late in the day for traditional storytelling, and after 4 days spent together with the great crowd of people already mentioned, I felt really, really playful. So this is how it happened that the story suddenly had a Czech architect (Jitka) and a Swedish doctor (Love) in it. (In the original story it's an Italian architect and a German doctor, and I couldn't care less...:) It was amazing! I've never had so much fun on the storytelling stage before. The three of us were the youngest at the conference; playing together at the end of those 5 days was everything I could wish for to make the Lausanne experience just perfect. The story worked, the improv came out just perfect, and the audience seemed to like it too.
And so we closed the festival, with laughter and playfulness.

Moments like this make me proud of my country. It has stories that work no matter where I take them and no matter which language I use; it has unique and curious things to tell, and I have ways to tell them to people from all over the world. Sharing the tales of my own culture is a great responsibility, but also a great joy; it is one of the things I want to keep doing all my life.

Left to right: me, Birgit and Jitka, a.k.a. the storytellers of Eastern Europe :)

1 comment:

  1. Now I'm so curious to hear the story of The Sad Prince. Can't wait till you post it on this blog.

    Congratulations on your successful teller experience!