Thursday, October 27, 2016

Epic-Lovers Reunite!

At the end of my one-year mentorship with Cathryn Fairlee, we celebrated with a storytelling concert showcasing some of our favorite epics. It was almost exactly a year ago. Last November, I got to premiere my one-hour show based on the Persian Book of Kings - but little did the audience know at the time that Cathryn helped me work on not one, but two epics over the course of one year, and the other fringe performance was yet to come. We scheduled the Epic-Lovers Reunite! house concert for the day after Epic Day, and I was both excited and grateful that I got to share the stage with my mentor once again. We had a completely full house: 50 people bought tickets for the show!

If you have been following this blog, you probably noticed how much I posted about my research on the Dietrich Cycle. The full-hour storytelling show born from all that work is titled Roses in the Mountains: German legends of Dwarves and Men, and this was the very first time I told it all in one swoop. It was an intense, but very rewarding experience.
The show is made up of two of the prominent legends about Dietrich and his knights. The first part is the legend of Virginal, Queen of the Mountains, and her war against the evil sorcerer Ortgis. She summons the human heroes as her allies (since, according to the Book of Heroes I quote at the beginning of the show, humans were created by God to protect the Dwarf kingdoms from giants and dragons). At first, Dietrich and his men try to take care of the threat themselves, but they fail miserably, and the whole story ends in an all-out epic battle between the forces of darkness and the allies of the Dwarf queen. Dietrich marries Virginal, who proves herself to be a wise ruler. I really enjoyed telling about all the fights and monsters, and the kids in the audience listened with wide-open eyes.
The second half of the story mirrors the first in many ways. It is the story known as the Small Rose Garden, the tale of the Dwarf King Laurin who allegedly abducts a human maiden. Dietrich and his men travel to Laurin's legendary rose garden in the mountains, trespass on his property, and effectively manage to start a war between Dwarves and humans. What saves the day in the end is the love of the maiden, Künhilde, for the Dwarf king, and her joining forces with Virginal to set things right. Yes, this story passes the Bechdel Test.
The story came together beautifully in the end. It is a fast-paced tale with a lot of intense fight scenes - but it also has humor in all the right places to break up the tension, and the audience responded well to those scenes. I added a couple of sorter Dietrich tales to round out the narrative (such as the story of the rose garden itself from a Swiss legend, or the scene where they drag a knight out of a dragon's mouth). I also tweaked the tales a little to give more play time to the women. The Dietrich Cycle does have several powerful women in it, so the changes did not feel out of place at all.

The second half of the house concert was the best reward I could have hoped for after such an exhausting performance: Cathryn told some of the legends of the Fianna. She knows that I live and die for Fionn Mac Cumhail, and as I curled up on a pillow in the corner with my well-deserved dinner, she told several of my favorite tales - and even one that I have not hear before! It was equally amazing to watch her, and to see the audience's reactions. Many of the heard the Burning of Tara, or the Birth of Oisín for the first time, and I was happy to see that the stories had the same effect on them as they did on me almost twenty years ago.

Epic-Lovers Reunite was definitely a success. I hope that I will get to tell with Cathyrn again (at the next Epic Day at the latest), and I also hope that I will get to take Roses in the Mountains to many other stages around the world. These stories deserve to be told...
(King Laurin's story is included in my book of tales about superhuman powers)

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