|Introducing Maria Tatar at our first "Grimm and Twisted" fairytale slam - also the 200th anniversary of the Grimms|
Reflections on a Creative Leadership Awardby Norah Dooley
Photos by: Paula H. Junn
This Tuesday, June 4th, 2013 I am honored to receive a Creative Leadership Award at Puppet Showplace Theatre at the Garden Party Gala, celebrating the occasion of their 39th birthday. See details at their website and let me know if you would like to come.
When we first approached Puppet Showplace, in 2010, with the idea of a collaboration, massmouth was just over one year old. We had long known and respected Puppet Showplace Theatre as a venue that supported the art form of puppetry which, much like storytelling, it is an art form with ancient roots that evokes rather than replaces imagination. We also knew that Puppet Showplace Theatre were successful. They had a history that showed grit and commitment that we could admire and aspire to; they had survived as artists and had maintained a continuously operating theater right in the heart of Greater Boston for over 3 decades.
Three years ago, we were whippersnappers, who had just finished our first season of story slams and believed we had a some social capital to share. And if leadership is boldly asking for what one needs, whether appropriate or not, then I have earned some part of this honor - although Cheeky Monkey Award would be a name better fitted to my style. We were beggars at the Puppet Theatre gate and very seriously in need of inexpensive or free office space because our operations had outgrown bedroom/living room arrangement. I suggested a collaboration based on our needs. Ultimately and not surprisingly, the first date between massmouth and Puppet Showplace Theatre did not lead to a relationship.
Skip ahead to this spring. I am reading ( more precisely, skimming) the email announcing I was being honored with this award. At first glance I thought that I was being asked to write a recommendation for Roxie Myrhum. She was the one who helped us find a way to work together. How perfect, I thought. Roxie is someone with vision, passion and drive. She really deserves this kind of award. I was so delighted to be able to do a small favor for Artistic Director of the Puppet Showplace Theatre that I started to read the email, just to be sure I knew when the deadline for my recommendation might be.
This closer reading revealed a mind-blowing truth - The Creative Leadership Award was being given to me and Roxie had been my nominator. I know. It was crazy! Immediately I was on the phone asking Maria Finison if the award could be expanded to include the other organizers and founders of massmouth who are still active in Boston. Specifically, Doria Hughes who co-hosted and planned the series at Puppet Showplace Theatre with me and Andrea Lovett, who is always actively promoting the art of storytelling. They both are leaders in the very best in contemporary performance of traditional material. But, no dice. This is an award for one person and Puppet Showplace Theatre wanted me. They cited the other areas of my work as fitting their criteria; my picture books, workshops, curricula etc. and so, although it is awkward to be so honored, I realized that I had to man-up and take one for the team. So I accept this award for me as a representative of the art of storytelling.
Last summer after a different kind of overture we shared a proposal with Puppet Showplace Theatre and created a project that worked. It had been a dream at massmouth,inc. that we would one day be able to entice a theater or another arts group to support traditional storytelling. This was an area of storytelling that we had mastered and worked in for decades. When we saw all storytelling on the wane, we started massmouth. When we saw the new energy slams brought to the art form we came up with an idea to mimic our successful 1st person story slams only using traditional content.
Doria Hughes, storyteller fabulosa, traditional storytellers from Greater Boston and the region and I presented a monthly series of folk & fairy tale slams events right here. Our Slamming the Tradition: Six traditional storytelling events for adults were part open slam, where tellers presented stories no longer than 7 minutes, that were fiction and in some traditional form and part featured performer. Unlike our other story slams, tellers could include props, costumes and music BUT no notes. We secured the prizes and the audience chose winners: A bag of magic beans, magic wishing stone and a small bale of hay were award each month along with a gift card, donated by the Brookline Booksmith. Our first event was written up in ArtsFuse OCT 21 2012.
|Performing with Susan Miron on February 14th, 2013|
My stories ranged from naughty to lusty, and included romantic tales that came from ancient story traditions of India and the bards of the Holy Roman Empire. Susan Miron accompanied me on the harp. She drew on various ancient folk melodies and dances from Southern Italy. The music comes from authentic folk songs of Campagnia, Calabria, Puglia & Napoli as transcribed by John LaBarbera, mandolinist.
Some traditional stories 'back story below and more at this link: Folk tales: the TV of preliterate culture Folk tales: entertainment for adults & the TV of preliterate culture
Since we announced our Folk and Fairy Tale Slams, all sorts of people I thought would know better, have been perplexed. "Traditional stories? Huh? What is a traditional story?" In the paragraphs below I have tortured and twisted a wikipedia article into illustrating a Miller Analogy Test type statement. My main intent was to explore and hopefully explain the difference between traditional storytelling and contemporary 1st person narrative in performance. Secondly, I hoped to save time by lifting lots of the material for my explanation. This process is sometimes called slapdash, and, when less transparent, also known as plagiarism or "lack of artistic integrity". The statement I am working with is: traditional stories are to contemporary 1st person narrative stories as traditional folk songs are to singer-songwriter's songs. Imagine an acoustic performance of Arrow, by Cheryl Wheeler next to a performance by Simon And Garfunkel "Scarborough Fair" or any other traditional ballad of Great Britain.
From a historical perspective, traditional/folk storytelling has these characteristics:
• Traditional stories were transmitted through the oral tradition. Before the twentieth century, most people were illiterate. They acquired stories by listening and memorizing them. Primarily, this was not mediated by books, recorded or transmitted by any media. Contemporary yet traditional storytellers may extend their repertoire using picture books or CDs, but these are secondary enhancements when they are of the same character as the primary stories experienced in live performance.
- Storytelling is typically culturally particular; from a geographic region or culture. In the context of an immigrant group, storytelling acquires an extra dimension for social cohesion. It is particularly conspicuous in the United States, where immigrants and oppressed minorities strive to emphasize their differences from the mainstream. They may learn stories that originate in the countries their grandparents came from.
- Stories may commemorate historical and/or personal events. Religions, spiritual traditions, and religious festivals may have a storytelling component especially a set of teaching stories.
- Stories at communal events bring children and non-professional storytellers to participate in a public arena, giving an emotional bonding that is unrelated to the aesthetic qualities of the performance.
- Traditional stories have been performed, by custom, over a long period of time, over many generations.
• Traditional storytelling is non-commercial in that no one can own a traditional story and we are within our rights to say, "Back off, Disney! Put the law suits away, and the folktale collection down and no one gets hurt."
|All the performers at "Love, sex and heads may roll."|