Wednesday, April 18, 2007

edited and uploaded Newer LaBefana

I have tried to shorten the content
and improve the quality of the visuals.
We shall see.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Mike Daisey at the ART

I really liked Mike Daisey's show @
the ART.

I sent him these comments.
To read his ideas on storytelling...

Excerpt from my letter
<< ...As a storyteller, and I do not mean to be a purist, but the
way or fact that you use notes irks me.
Sometimes I have a little cheat sheet like the playlist
that a folk singer puts on their guitar.
I look at it during applause, in between stories
So what is my beef?
Maybe your looking down breaks the connection we have with you?
And, anyway , you have the notes and a glass o' water
AND the gigs @ the ART, right? So who am I to say?
But I digress...

Last night when you went from your experience
of 9/11 back to the history of the subway
I found myself scrambling to keep up with you - emotionally- conceptually.
In every way it was a rough transition.

Before it was a gorgeous moment - pure poetry.
Exquisit theater and deeply human. We were with you.
Then the history of subway and the fantasy
interlude in a restaurant?

I thought - Huh? What is this ? Maybe this
transition is okay for him,
A] he has heard all this before
B]he has notes.

That is the purist speaking - excuse me
while I tell her to shut up)
Still, it was jarring.
I wanted to hear more about choices- ...

Such great images!

It was at that rough transition that
I found myself looking at your
unread pile of notes and wondering
-- *sigh* how much more?
Not a Q I ever want my audience to be thinking...but I got right back
with you when the story went to Maine.
So there you are....>>

To see Mike Daisey's monologue....
"Invincible Summer" will run through April 29, followed by
"Monopoly!" May 1-6 and
"Tongues Will Wag" May 8.
For information on tickets and showtimes,
visit the ART website

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Norah At a Library in Arlington Heights Suburban Chicago

Back in October of 2004 I was invited to come and
talk at a series of libraries that had included
my book Everybody Cooks Rice in their community
wide reading project.
They just posted this video of part of my visit
to the web at youtube.
And now I know how to post video too.

Hitchiking in Italy w/the GrandpaGang part 1

The beginning of the story...recorded live @
Story Lab in Club Passim on March 19, 2007.
My first trip to Europe was less than a triumph of
planning or execution. Fascists were blowing up trains
when we arrived and we decided to ditch our Eurail
passes hitch hike through Italy. TRAGEDY + TIME = COMEDY
Thanks Laura Packer, Bill McGowan, Jamie OConnell and all
who came out and made the evening.

For more? Email me a request for the link to part 2

video from youtube

my first Attempt to publish video
on a blog - Very easy!

An ideas whos time has come?


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Serves Me Right...tempting the fates

Sure enough serves me right
- Today I had to be more interesting
than throw-up. And I thought dog poop
was stiff competition? [See Jan 31st post]

Today I tested the power of storytelling.
For real.
A poor little 1st grader quietly let fly
right in the beginning of my presentation in a cafetorium
filled with 200 or so K- 2s sitting on their bottoms.

The Kindergardners were already a bit rambunctious
as it was. Luckily the

throw up
tossed cookies
lost lunch
sidewalk pizza
technicolor yawn

was behind the K- folk who were not very attentive.

The space for 15 feet around was immediately evacuated.
This happened so quickly.
I scanned left to right as I spoke and
when I looked back, there was a hole in
what had been a
visual field full of kids.
In the middle of the large white space
was a huge puddle of
red vomit.
For quite a while the spot was vacant and
the other kids kept poking their heads up like
gophers to try and "see".

Finally, a teacher covered the 1 foot circle of
vomit, with small paper napkins.
This manouever took some time
but finally the fire engine red circle with orange chunks
was covered up. Mostly.

And then janitor came. Moving
with the measured, precise movements of a character in a Noh
play, he carefully swept then
he brought out sawdust and swept some more
and he came back with disinfectant
and sprayed and wiped and wiped again.

It was not a simple task. A laborious process.

But by god - I was more interesting than
throw up today. I never stopped and never lost the
crowd or my train of thought.

This is the POWER of storytelling.

But I am still a bit queasy.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

What should we call ourselves?*

* if not storytellers?

This issue has been
raised by many in LANES over the past few years –
notably Jo Radner, Mark Binder, Loren Noemi and most recently by Michael
Anderson at STF 2007.
How we are defined and how we wish to be known are
topics worthy of a rollicking debate and a thorough investigation.
Identity is a deep subject.

We may have to generate lots of smoke around this fire
to get a blaze large enough to shed some light...

Dunno – are my meandering thoughts just more smoke ?
Or will my woolgathering invite others to add some serious fuel?
Whatever may be, here is some kindling for the fire...

Statement: - storytelling is family entertainment.
I have no mad beef with that.
But does that make us storytellers family entertainers?
Like Mr. Rogers, Barney and Raffi?

Well, Yes. In a way it does. But who makes these designations?
Isn't separating and codifying like this all about marketing ?

What makes something adult entertainment –?
When did "adult entertainment"
come to mean entertainment that contains explicit sexual content and little else.
Don’t we want to do more than that? I mean in public –

How about complex, resonant, abstract, engaging and evocative
entertainment ? And why should stories be any less than complex, resonant, abstract and evocative when they are for families?
Granted when you must keep 18 month old happy while telling to a 5 year old a story you planned for an eight year old...complexity and abstraction may not be your leading qualities.

But should we abandon the notion of family as “uncool” ?
Wow, that is messed up… And so in league with "the Man".
Because to make our plastic world spin,
everything of real value anything that cannot be turned into a commodity
--entities that cannot be bought or sold must be denigrated, put down or aside
They must be seen as valueless in this society.

Love – wisdom—friendship – wonder ? Or any manifestation of these really priceless treasures that cannot be put into shrink wrap, barcoded or downloaded must be seen as worthless.
This makes the space for the dominant consumer culture to sell you the plastic, virtual, get-it-now-while-supplies-last Walmart version of friendship, love or dream for as low as $19.99 a month ! Buy two get one FREE,

Sure, artists should take chances and risks. But toward what end?
Often I am told at the end of a performance of folk tales –
" Wow, those were not just for kids, adults could enjoy them too."
Some of the talk I hear about “risks” and all that seems like cant and
ideological posturing.
And posturing or being anything less than
genuine is the worst thing any artist can do.
just as deadly is being obscure, elitist or cutesy.

On a purely practical level, can I become known for my mature material and
still get booked in schools? Why and why not?
With all the access on the web –
can I even write a blog that expresses my
deepest cares and woes and still get booked in schools?
While telling to adults is so much fun, being
booked in schools helps pay the mortgage and puts food on the table.

So –

Should we turn away from the one strong
connection we storytellers have to our culture? Should we turn away from storytelling as family entertainment-?
I think this is a very bad idea.

Should we shy away from genuine expression of our adult selves?
This is a kind of living death I am not ready for. So, what to do?

We need to add meaning to the word “storytelling”,
not disconnect it from meanings and positive experiences.

How to do this ? Where?

Maybe we need to we need to get our butts
to the scene – where adults gather --
Wherever that is? And entertain them.
Now, just where that is and how to do this...that is another exploration.

Your turn…
All the best, norah

** STF =Sharing the Fire
which is the annual conference of LANES