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

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