Thursday, February 18, 2016

Turkmen Valentine at the Silk Road House

The title makes sense, I promise.

The day after Epic Day, still in the Bay Area, I had the opportunity to join a group of tellers on their monthly performance at Berkeley's Silk Road House. In one season, these events walk the historic Silk Road from China to Turkey, and each stop along the journey corresponds to the tales of a distinct culture. It just so happened that the second Sunday of February was dedicated to Turkmenistan... and Valentine's Day.

The SRH is not a large venue - about thirty-odd people fill it up - but it is a lovely corner of cultural events, with a very friendly organizer team and core audience. There were drinks and snacks available, and a box of artisan bonbons courtesy of a local chocolatier (because of ValDay). They were in-between art shows, but I still got to sneak a peek at the gorgeous photos and paintings they had to decorate the space.

There were four tellers in the lineup - all four had been in Epic Day the day before. Ann Riley told a short and lovely little tale about the wisdom in deciding how to punish a thief. She was followed by Dana Sherry, the director of the storytelling programs at SRH (and my gracious hostess), who told a long and elaborate fairy tale about a stolen bride and her sister who was an antelope (it made sense at the time). She is a very graceful storyteller, and also very funny in an eloquent way. I really enjoyed her telling, especially because she managed to turn a folktale type that never made sense to me (the prince not recognizing his wife has been replaced by an ugly servant woman) into something that we could all accept in the telling with the appropriate suspension of disbelief.
After a short break it was my turn. I told Gemstone Mountain (I blogged about the story in detail last week), and it came out very well. It worked in live telling, the audience followed through, there was some laughter and some gasping, and everyone appreciated the many turns of events. It was actually a lot more fun to tell than to read (duh) and it is definitely a keeper for my repertoire. I like shiny things.
The concert was closed by Cathryn Fairlee, who did a twenty-minute section of the epic of Dede Korkut. It was one I had not heard her do before, and I loved every minute of it; it was a variation on the Cyclops tale from the Odyssey, with a mix of the Black Thief and the Knight of the Glen and the legend of Cacus thrown in. Cathyrn is not only a masterful teller, but she also has a deep love for epics, and a dedication to in-depth research that makes her performances truly amazing.

I don't know if I have ever told a single Turkmen folktale before in my life - but this one was definitely a positive experience. I wish I could come back to Berkeley every month, to do the entire Silk Road run. I plan on visiting again when I come back for Epic Day in the fall. But for those of you who live in the Bay Area: Definitely check it out!


  1. That sounds like an incredible experience! How awesome to be a part of it.

  2. That's a creative event, sounds really good!