Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sharing the Fire of the Arts!

This past weekend I presented my workshop Story by Story - Building a Student Storytelling Troupe at the LANES Northeast Storytelling Conference: Sharing the Fire in Rhode Island. I was delighted to have 18 eager participants who not only came to learn but to share their thoughts as well. That is what this conference is all about, everyone adding to the pot to make a delicious stew where there is enough for everyone!

Although this is first and foremost a storytelling conference with an eclectic array of workshops for the shyest beginner to the most seasoned pros, we were blessed with people who shared their talents across the many arts. There was dancing with abandon, lively music, the breathtaking quilt work of Debbie Block and the smooth, hand thrown pottery of Mary Stewart, and of course, stories, stories and more stories!

Bill Harley took the first step and opened the conference with is insightful keynote on elevating our art and urged us to continue to walk the path towards excellence. He spoke about the differences between "the workmanship of certainty" and "the workmanship of risk." I urge all of you to purchase the CD of his keynote from LANES. You will want to listen to it again and again for his unabashed honesty and "straight to the heart" pearls of wisdom, shared so accessibly and effortlessly.

I wish I could have taken every workshop offered. Any idea how we can clone ourselves? Mary Jo Machiek's How to Sing Like a Pro: Techniques Learned the Hard Way, Made Easy was fun, inspiring and useful, Meg Gilman's Sensing Personal Stories, Images, Sound Bites – Stories!was insightful, powerful and emotional for me, and broke through many of those "protective blocks" in a very safe and caring space. I know my work will be enriched because of it. The panel discussion (Doug Lipman, Debbie Block of Round River Records and Marilyn McPhie on How to Produce, Market and Sell a Winning CD was very informative. I loved the format and the easy flow of information.

This year, storytellers Massmouth organizers extraordinaire  Norah Dooley, Andrea Lovett, Doria Hughes and Stu Mendelson, won the prestigious Brother Blue - Ruth Hill Award for

“demonstrating their dedication in creating and nurturing a strong storytelling community, be it by individual mentoring, guild or event venues or by fostering a greater public awareness of storytelling and its applications in all areas of society.”

In the eloquent words of fellow storyteller and friend Meg Gilman,

"Brother Blue watched over us all as we reunited for this annual story feast. His presence was there in the blue butterflies pins we wore, in an amazingly vital and resonant large photo of him on the stage, and in a moving and deeply personal tribute by Kevin Brooks, Laura Packer and Robert Smythe. And of course, there was Ruth - her quiet, centered grace and dignity blessing the event. I kept waiting for Blue to leap up and wax poetic about the tellers' performances, but, that was not to be, except in my memory. I still had to smile, knowing he would have had something to say."

I was thrilled to be one of the presenters, along with Vernon Cox and Lynne Cullen. Here is a small part of the letter I wrote to support Vernon Cox's nomination of the group:

"Through their unique and continuous efforts they have breathed new life into the storytelling arena in New England. They have done all of this without thought of personal gain but for the benefit of all while maintaining their own personal work as storytellers. I predict their efforts will be emulated throughout the country in the near future. We are all riding on the wings of their combined efforts and vision..."

From the stage I had a glorious view and could immediately see the stunned and surprised look on all of the recipient's faces. It was one of the conference highlights for me! Bravo to the Massmouth team, you are leading the way  for all of us.

Four of my storytelling students (three fourth graders and one third grader) graced the stage during Sunday's closing ceremonies and I couldn't be prouder! They displayed an amazing amount of poise for their age and had the time of their lives! I think their joy shines through in the pictures below. I was one proud teacher!

  The Four Musketeers basking in the glow of a story well-told!

Paul telling "The Fearsome Monster in Hare's House "

 Aidan telling "The Silly Farmer"


Danny and Evan tandem telling "The Hare and the Tortoise"

Here's to the stories!

I told them it would be the most supportive audience they will every have and my colleagues did not disappoint, rising to give them a standing ovation at the end. Also, not to be missed was Shelby Leard, daughter of Donna Leard who started the stories off in grand style; a beautiful and talented young lady to be sure! This is the next generation that will carry our art forward. A huge thank you to everyone who made their experience one to remember!

* My storytelling program at Freetown Elementary is generously funded  by the Freetown Elementary PTO and the Massachusetts Local Cultural Council

First Image: Arabian Nights by Edmund Dulac, 1907