Monday, September 17, 2012

Unchained, uncensored, unbelievable

Sooo, guess what?
No, Christmas didn't come early. Christmas is right where it should be.
What did come to campus today, however, was the UNCHAINED TOUR!

Ever since we first got word that they were going to stop in Johnson City, the event has mostly been known as "NEIL GAIMAN IS COMING TO CAMPUS!" with some "I LOVE THE MOTH!" thrown in in-between fangirl sqeals. There was great excitement all over ETSU, especially in the immediate area of the nerd table, and storytellers for once were not the only people hyped about an afternoon of personal storytelling. Some would call it the magic of the Moth, but the way I see it, 'magic' is not quite the right word for this. I'd rather go with 'rock and roll'.

As the hosts to this amazingly colorful event, my roommate and me got to be of help backstage: we were in charge of guiding the group of raconteurs to the university cafeteria for lunch before the show. Here is one thing I absolutely love about storytellers: they are nice people! We talked about stuff, we laughed, we strolled around the Culp center to avoid the excited crowds. In the cafeteria we got to watch Neil Gaiman wander around getting food, and people walking past him not having a clue who he was (mostly because all the people on campus who did were already downstairs, standing in a long line). It was strangely entertaining to watch.

There was something about the whole experience that just made us all giddy on the inside. Storytelling is not usually the art form where you get the hyped up, busy, crowd-drawing tour experience, so it was a lot of fun to be a tiny part of the buzz.
I have met Peter Aguero before, he is largely responsible for the Brooklyn Moth experience being a memorable highlight of my winter break, and is an all around loveable guy, who gives amazing bear hugs.
And, of course, Neil Gaiman. The first book of his I ever read was American Gods, waiting in line for the interview that got me the scholarship to come to the USA. Since then, I have read pretty much everything he wrote, sharing the joy of reading with my roommates, friends, and family. This is the first time I have ever met a favorite author of mine in person. And I totally did it without sqealing! I am so proud of myself. He is a very kind and pleasant guy who had a nice word for everyone, and stood the rush of fans with a genuine smile on his face.

The show itself was the best of the best. The Unchained Band did some amazing music (and musical timekeeping). Dawn Fraser told us about her experience of "pretending to be white pretending to be black" with wit and honesty, and I totally spent half of her story trying to guess if the dog with the dreadlocks was a puli. I have never heard her before, but she charmed me too with the rest of the audience.
Peter, as always, was a wonderful host. Friendly, funny, sharp, never hesitant to embarrass people in the audience, but never hurting anyone. His story of how he met his wife was so heart warming it restored all my faith in happy endings. The fact that it was a true story made it even better. Who needs chick flicks when you can have raconteurs?
Neil Gaiman was the third (and last) teller in the set. He was wide open from the moment he walked on stage. He talked about his marriage, his dating life, and most of all the big white dog he rescued that had been chained for the first three years of its life. Anyone who rescues a big dirty dog and stuffs it in a mini has to be a great person. His story really drove the "unchained" part of the Unchained Tour home. It was about learning to live free, accepting the freedom to be happy, and things working out in the end. I like it when things work out in the end. Especially for dogs. And writers.

The show was followed by a workshop. While Neil was flooded by fans outside the hall the greatly diminished numbers of listeners gathered around the stage to hear, and ask, about personal storytelling. It was about the process of crafting stories, but it never got really technical; it was more about the basic ideas behind telling your own stories. They talked about the importance of emotional truth; Peter explained that your responsibility first and foremost is always to the story, and not trying to get a certain reaction from the audience. I think that was a very important thought and it should be on bumper stickers and storytelling degrees. Yes.
As part of the workshop, Cathy was chosen by luck (or telepathy) to tell a personal story of her own on stage and then discuss it with the raconteurs. My roomie is a star! She was charming, delightful, funny, and all-around a gorgeus storyteller. She is going to be famous one day and I am going to exploit her being my roommate like nobody's business.

The workshop only ended when the raconteurs were practically kicked and dragged off stage in order to make it to their other show tonight. We exchanged hasty hugs and thanks and goodbyes, and wished them all the best for the road. Only when we left did we realize we didn't even remember to get our books signed by Neil.

But we got something a lot better! We got the full Unchained experience. And bear hugs.
And now I'm going to go back, read this post, and weed out every second 'awesome' and 'amazing' I find in it. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Breaking New Blog

I have gone and done it again.

This new blog is about spotting old stories, motifs and story types in modern disguises (movies, books, music etc.) I am having fun spotting storytelling opportunities in things that are popular with the people I tell to :)

If you are curious, check it out!