Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Storytellers undercover: I swear I am a folklorist!

Soooo. New Orleans. The week before Halloween. Voodoo Fest. 80-something degrees. Live music.
And the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society (of which I am a member since... two weeks ago?)

It was Dr. Sobol's brilliant idea to apply with a panel on gaming, popular culture, and storytelling to the AFS conference about the Continuity and Creativity of Culture. Our small but powerful team of undercover superheeeerhm, I mean, storytellers, consisted of Kevin Cordi (representing improv role-playing and creative drama), Patrick Gerard (representing storytelling in video games), and yours truly (representing traditional tabletop). Our panel was scheduled for 8am on Saturday, which, given that the hotel was a corner away from a Friday night on Bourbon Street, was less than ideal, but that did not break our momentum at all.

New Orleans, by the way, is a lot of fun. I have been there four years ago, visiting my friend, Angela, and I have been planning on going back ever since. When I was not sitting in a folklore panel, we were wandering around in the French Quarter, visiting touristy places, eating good food, and listening to good music.

When I was sitting in panels... well, that was actually a lot of fun too. For example, Milbre Burch and her husband presented an amazing two-hour panel on their project of interviewing 90 storytellers all around the USA, and gathering more than 200 hours of footage. They showed us snippets of this great project, and the familiar faces - Ray Hicks, Kathryn Windham, Dovie Thomason, Gioia Timpanelli, Olga Loya, and many others - were greeted with sighs and smiles and nods from the audience. They definitely had a lot of important things to say about stories and storytelling.

Kay Stone's presentation on the Grimm tales and their legacy was also fascinating. I have not heard Kay tell before, but Kevin drew my attention to her part in the program, and I was glad he did. Kay is a folklorist and a storyteller, and a great combination at that too! She told interesting variations of Grimm tales to illustrate her point: Japanese Hansel and Gretel, Native American Cinderella, original Snow White etc. It was as enjoyable as it was thought provoking, and especially appropriate for 2012. Grimm tales are in this year!

Another highlight of the event was the panel with the creators of Treme from HBO. If you have not seen that show yet, go home and watch it! It's a lot of fun, and one of the best shows I have seen since the Wire, which is no coincidence. I personally enjoyed the talk with the creators, writers and producers a lot more than if the actors had been there: it was interesting to get a glimpse of how such a story, in the broad and true sense of the word, is created by a team. Also, they were all very friendly, and fun to talk to.

All in all, my first folklore conference felt like a success. I have been to archaeology conferences before, and had my fair share of storytelling gatherings. Folklorists are generally less talkative and sharing than storytellers, but as we have seen, there are exceptions on both sides, and plenty of crossover between the fields.

Also. New Orleans. Nuff said.


  1. So glad to read your English version. I looked at what the Google translate did to your Hungarian original & found it a hodgepodge of English words making very little sense in the way they were put together. But I did get a vague idea of the content. I'm enjoying your experiences vicariously!

  2. What a joy to spend time with Csenge and the rest of the gang. As they say "we did good." all the best, Kevin Cordi

  3. It was great meeting you while you were down here! Sorry I haven't contacted you before, been racing deadlines in the wake of Halloween.

    BTW, I should have that audiocast edited and online soon. Will send you a link when I do.