Friday, February 29, 2008

Tellers and Tales at Timp - Taking the plunge

(Keep in mind, this was my first storytelling conference ever. I'm not childish. I'm enthusiastic;)

Remember what I wrote about David Novak and his standing-on-the-head performance? Now, that was not only my first encounter with him, but also the first experience on the conference's first day... and it made my day. He was the keynote teller, talking about standing on the threshold as storytellers (I especially like standing on the threshold of everything... and balancing on it... and swinging on it... and doing cartwheels on it... comes with the trickster nature I guess). The room was filled with people, tellers and listeners alike, and in spite of the jet lag and the sleep deprivation (that created black circles under my eyes to match my black blouse) I felt really awake, and ready to remember everything I hear...
The first workshop I attended was Meg Gilman's: Up Close and Personal, about character connections. It was not only fascinating and useful, but also gave us a new perspective about folktales and fairy tales (the Wicked Witch will never ever be the same again...). And of course, it was great fun. I was working with the Dragon Prince - and thanks to Meg now the heroine has a name, she never had one before. Yay!
Lunch was almost just as fun as all the workshops - sitting, talking, being introduced to more people than I can possibly remember (but they were all very nice), running up and down between tables (Wendy just had to show off my dragon egg - yes I have one, a tiny jade green egg, one of my good luck story charms...). Cookies, apples, sandwiches, and we were off to the next session.
Performance, that is. Debi Richan's My Antonia. Afterwards she told us everyone always asks her about the spinning wheel - but come on, this was the first time I saw a spinning wheel live in use, and I was fascinated... almost as much as by her storytelling. She changed into Antonia in outfit and voice and all the emotions; she was loud and sharp and lovable... and she even told a Czech story I immediately recognized as a version of Belfegor and Monna Onetta, and a couple of Hungarian folktales. And she told it well. Now that I come to think of it, this was the first time I saw historical personification on storytelling stage, and I just love it (goes on the "I have to try it once!" list)
Fired up by My Antonia I went to Kate Dudding's workshop, Voices from the Past to learn more about transforming history and biography into storytelling. Kate is a fountain of knowledge and advice on this topic. Historical storytelling is something new, something different from what I learned at home - I do write historical novels, but I never told them. Maybe I could?... Fun part is, Kate had a lot to say about research, but as I see it now, I will make the whole thing awfully difficult for myself - not many newspaper articles from the 2nd century A.D. Well, we'll see. The workshop started it all...
The last workshop of the day was Donald Davis's It's all in the Medium. The tools of a storyteller and all the ways you can possibly tell a story - and who would know that better than him... (and yes, he sneaked in some stories too, and man were they just great...)
Well, after we had dinner in a nice Greek restaurant, there was nothing left but the Friday evening concert (or, as I called it in myself, the concert of the "big brothers"). The auditorium of the Timpanogos High School filled up by the time we got there; it was amazing to see all the families and people arriving, all cheerful and eager to hear stories, stories and stories...
The tandem teller girls who opened the show were just great (it made me add "try tandem telling" to my list - yeah it's growing and growing...) and hip and sassy and totally professional (I wish we had contests or festivals for young tellers too, makes such a difference if kids can stand on the stage...)
David was great as ever. He had a nice Romeo and Juliet/West Side Story/Pyramus and Thisbe/personal story mix - definitely a 'wow' experience. I like the way he works with myths and fairy tales and the way he mixes them with personal stories and his own telling style; the result is really funny but still deep (means we laughed our heads off but kept thinking about it even days later). And I was especially happy about Pyramus and Thisbe (oh joyful high school days when I was Puck for a whole drama season...).
Donald was funny as ever, with a touch of 'owww how sweet' in the mix (I mean his story. But he's sweet too). As always: all the fun of being a kid, all the weird family members, all the touching moments and yes, all the trouble (trouble is Donald's trademark, after all...) (Wendy kept giggling at me from time to time when I gasped "Nooo, he didn't...." "Yes he did.") It's interesting to see how my attitude changed towards personal stories in the last couple of months since I arrived here; I think I had to learn how to enjoy them. Donald is a great teacher for that...
And the first day was already over before I even realized.
Great luck that we had one more to go...

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