Thursday, July 10, 2008

An Ocean of Fun!

I had the most delightful and insightful storytelling day yesterday. I drove to beautiful, scenic, Rockport, MA to take part in the annual Story Train, sponsored by the wonderful libraries and librarians around the Cape Ann area.

About six hundred family members board a train that brings them to a lovely spot by the ocean, Millbrook Meadow, to picnic and listen to stories. Three storytellers, Tony Toledo, Nora Dooley and myself shared tales for 45 minutes. At the end, Tony decided we would all do a quick story improv, a real surprise to us! Tony started the tale about a tree and, a tree that could walk no less! As we each too turns it grew and grew (no pun intended). At one point I said "And the willow made it's way to the city where a great folk festival was taking place. He took out his harmonica and began a wild riff." Now it was Nora's turn. I hadn't noticed she was wearing tiny harmonica earrings and quick as a wink she took one off and began to play. The audience erupted in laughter. One of those "we couldn't have planned it any better moments." Great fun!

Afterwards, Tony and I spent the day roaming the quaint and eclectic seaside
shops of Rockport, finding fun at every turn and he made sure he took me to see the most painted spot there. The red fisherman's shack has been the subject of so many paintings it is now called Motif I.

One store was like stepping back in time into one of those all purpose General Stores, filled with penny candy, popcorn, postcards, games,and of course books. There I found a slim volume, New England's Mad and Mysterious Men, which looks like it will be an interesting read.

Later, we went for a tour of Manchester by the Sea, another gorgeous, New England seaside town. We stopped at a used bookstore, Manchester by the Book, which is chockfull of nooks and crannies to ramble through. Mark, the owner, guided me to a small back room where I found two folktale books, one with stories from Vietnam and another from Central America.

Later, we went to a new open mic venue Tony hosts at an eclectic restaurant, the Gulu Gulu Cafe and he is the consommute MC, making each performer feel valued and appreciated. My plan was to go, listen and support him but he secretly signed me up to tell in the second slot and before I knew it I was being introduced. Since we'd spent the day together by the sea I decided to tell my adaptation of a Massachusetts folktale, Long John and the Mermaid. I am so accustomed to telling for children it is a rare treat when I get to share a story with an adult audience. It was grand to see that they were just as attentive and appreciative and were delighted with the story.

The other folks who took the stage offered a wide-range of pieces from
poetry, to excerpts from plays, to creative writing, to political essays. Some of
their work gave me chills. One multi-talent artist (poet, photographer and
musician) shared a poem he wrote that needs to be read by all of the politicians in America!

There was even a sixteen year old young man who shared something he had just written that day; he displayed such talent and poise, amazing! The headliner was comedian George Seibel who was not only funny but politically charged, a la the late great George Carlin. There were many powerful, thought-provoking pieces and I began to think that the offering I'd brought to the table was a bit trite but I was assured by many that they loved the storytelling and asked me to come back and tell again. I guess in this upside world we especially need fantasy in our lives all the more!

Bravo to Tony and the Gulu Gulu Cafe for giving us all the chance to gather, play, laugh and think!

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