May Day is related to the Celtic festival of Beltane and the Germanic festival of Walpurgis Night. May Day falls exactly half a year from November 1, another cross-quarter day which is also associated with various northern European pagan and the year in the Northern hemisphere, and it has traditionally been an occasion for popular and often raucous celebrations.
Coincidences on international workers day:
2011: President Obama announces the death of Bin Laden
Why were we subjected to a long wait of TV news time before he came out to announce it?
2007: President Bush announces “Mission Accomplished” re: the “major conflict in Iraq has ended.”
Announced on the USS Lincoln warship: Honest Abe…ahem
1945: the death of Adolph Hitler is announced
1707: Great Britain is formed, merging England, Wales and Scotland.
There are a lot of “big” events on May 1st (and I am sure you can find more on other days: that is not the point here); I just did not list them all. You can do some of the research yourself HERE. I just find it bizarre that three major events in less than 100 years occurred.
My feeling, and all it is is a feeling, no facts (so, yeah, kindly refrain from nasty comments: I’m allowed my feeling on this matter):
Starting in 1945, it feels like something Winston Churchill would have put forward, using a people’s day holiday to make a huge political announcement. It adds gravitas to the whole thing, big an event as it was unto itself. Someone savvy in PR in Bush’s cabinet could have taken notice of this and used that date to push the (erroneous) message out, bolstering the president’s “history” for future generations. Using the ship he did was overkill, imho. Lastly, with all the Bush bashing, what better day to upstage the 2007 announcement but to bring forward the death of another monster, and then make us wait with bated breath, probably smoking a cigarette and biding time to heighten the effect once announced.
Makes me wonder what the next “big announcement” on a May 1st will be.
Hi All…I’ve been away since mid March for a variety of reasons. In April, I spent the majority of my time writing everyday for my Tale Spinning blog, creating an interrelated anthology series. Please take a look HERE.
I’ll be back with BornStoryteller The Creative Series (still have guest posts that I never got around to sharing with you) and one or two other series ideas. That will all start soon, and I’ll do my best to keep a schedule going.
Thanks for sticking around, and thank you all for reading (and commenting) on BornStoryteller.
If I believed in the two quotes above, I’d be out of a lot of the work I do, and enjoy. As an Arts-in-Education Teaching Artist (TA) in Theater Arts, I work with all ages and groups, from Early Education straight through to the Senior population. Many TA’s cover an even broader spectrum, as many work also in hospitals, prisons, community outreach programs, children/families at risk, special needs learners, youth homes, corporations and organizations with Professional Development, and in training/mentoring new TA’s. It’s an expansive field that I feel is sorely overlooked as a solid profession. Or..it has been. There is ever hope that as things get tougher, there will be a pulling together to really organize what we have to offer.
As mentioned above, I’m a Theatre Arts (Storytelling is part of that, yes) TA. A TATA .
For those not in the know, there are many TAs in Music, Dance and Fine Arts that also supply a wealth of creative opportunities for all ages. We should all be embraced for what we can offer.
I have seen the benefits through the years of what the Arts offers not only educationally but with life lessons and personal growth. The goal should not be to train/indoctrinate the next major star (although it’d be nice, and any student of mine can always mention me when they get an award ). The first word of our title is TEACHING. Educating. Working within the context of the location that hired us, whether within the curriculum of a school or the goal of the corporation/organization that hired us. We teach/lead/coach/share the expertise of our arts discipline to invigorate, engage, help stir creative and critical thought, problem solve, open doors to new ways of expression, hope to instill self confidence, and to have fun with those we are working with. Fun is a good thing, and often overlooked as a learning tool by the narrow focused.
So..why Babes On Broadway?
I am currently working in a couple of different schools. I’ve talked about two of the programs I have running in previous posts: Devised & Collaborative Theater and Process Drama. I am also Directing a MS/HS play at another location. It has been…a learning experience.
I have actually brought one production with students (3-5th grades) to Broadway! We got a chance to present a portion of a play we devised together off of the works of Shel Silverstein, SHELed. This was for P.S. Arts Week in 2008, and we were at the New Victory Theater. It was a lot of work, doing this in an after school enrichment program. Students get sick easily, have appointments that can only be done after school, forget things & often, are tired and hungry…and in the end, they rally together to get the work done.
One of my favorite stories is of one of the 3rd graders, whose major challenge was remaining focused on anything for any real length of time. The night of the performance, right in the middle of a three scene transition, she got bopped in the nose. Hard. She came off stage at the right time, crying to me. I comforted her, made sure she was not bleeding, and as she wiped away the tears..she had to go back on for the last piece. “Ruh Roh” was my thought. Out on stage she went, and she did her BEST performance ever! Timing, volume, energy..all there. Really a proud moment.
Right now, I’m facing a lot of the same problems as stated above, but with an older group who have a lot of extra THINGS going on in their minds and lives. I also came into this project VERY late, as they had been working on it for quite awhile. Some students are amazing in their dedication and respect to others, and…others are not. We are one month away from the show, and many are still on book. They’ll come to one rehearsal, skip the next two, and think nothing of it. Nerves play into a lot of this, egos, that “you can’t tell me anything” attitude I remember so well as a teen myself, and…well..
And then something wonderful just occurs, like yesterday. A young lady who could not stop breaking character, who could not remember a blocking or stage direction or a line, who could not stop laughing during a scene…blew me away. Her character, of a daughter who routinely sees her mother battered by her step father, became so real, so alive, and so heartbreaking in all the important ways: her voice, her gestures & body language… just killed. BTW, that’s a good thing.
I’m hoping for more breakthrough moments like that. Learning, on so many different levels. Seeing life through another person’s eyes.
BTW…from SHELed, and other work, I am very, very proud of one of my former students, who has worked hard to develop his talents, and they’ve just paid off. He’s been accepted into next years Freshman class at Frank Sinatra School for Performing Arts. Good going, Nick. Now..where did I leave that electric hair raiser?
Not a very good one, I can tell you with absolute true authority. I might break something while attempting to dance, but, well, that goes back to my second blog post for this Ultimate Blog Challenge thingy (“What kind of klutz am I?”).
I am, though, a pretty good Performance Storyteller. I know how to engage an audience, I find the lighter moments when I can, the laughter through characterization and “special” moments, and I normally work the stage area. I don’t like standing still at a mic to tell. I don’t really enjoy Telling from reading a book (librarian/early elementary school style), but I can do it when I have to.
I was part of a group of 26 or 27 storytellers who told the entirety of “Journey To The West”, the ancient tale of the Monkey King’s trials and tribulations as he ventured to find the Buddha and enlightenment. 100 chapters, split among four books, and we had two and a half days to tell the story to our audience. I had been given the task of having to read, and edit in performance, 4 chapters, close to 100 pages, that had a LOT going on. Oh..not sure if I told you, but I only had a half hour to cram and spew it all out. 100 pages. Action packed. Yeah. Right.
(Aside: Did I mention that I’m often irreverent? No? Pity. My friend, Sam, who came to my performance on Saturday, asked me: “Can’t you ever tell a story straight?” My answer: “Why should I? ANYONE can read a story, word for word, not deviate from what the author wrote, and do it pretty well. Some very, very well. I don’t do that. I tell the story and mix it with my personality and the energy/vibe/magic juju that the audience provides.” Now, I know this pisses some “purists” off to NO ends. I should be treating THE SACRED WORD as sacrosanct. Pish tosh, I say. Pish to the ULTIMATE Tosh. Do it as you see fit, as it fits the restraints and style you hold for yourself, and I shall do the same. Pish I say. Pish…and a great big Tosh too. End of rambled aside)
Back to the Monkey King. I added some humor and energy to the event, and boy, did I get some dirty looks from some. The rest laughed and clapped and joined in the fun as I brought into the story: the old guardian of the bridge from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (What is your favorite color?); puppetry (using googly eyes to do a scene where the Monkey King, impersonating a goblin, meets a goblin sentry); made some social commentary of the time, as it fit the storyline, and basically had FUN telling the tale. I can’t tell you how many people came up to me on the next break and thanked me for the infectious fun, waking the proceedings up, and for this and that. So…purist fascists:
As to why Sam asked the question WAY above, I got to tell two Hans Christian Andersen stories: “The Emperor’s New Suit” and “The Ugly Duckling.” The first I planned, the second one I was asked to-GASP!-READ FROM THE BOOK by a great group of PACE University students, as they acted out the story on the small stage. Again, I did mention in my aside, that I am basically irreverent, and even though I was there to celebrate Hans Christian Andersen’s Birthday, I was really there for the audience and to engage them in storytelling, and hopefully encourage them to read more traditional folk and fairy tales.
I did a lot of call and response, brought some of the kids on stage to be characters. Sadly, Sam, who was taping this for me, kept turning off the video when a kid was on stage. I have no record of the wonderfulness of what the children did at all, the special moments, and nothing from the second performance. I can only tell you that working with kids & adults in an interactive space is really where magic happens. It happened yesterday, and you only have my word for it. If I had known he was squeamish about taping the kids (we had a “warning” from someone in charge at the location: I would have ignored and later asked if I had the parents permission or not, and then edit appropriately. When you look at the photos others took, they had the kids in almost all the shots. Oh…)..well, that’s another blog, somewhere, another day.
Weaving and ducking and veering around and through the tales, I brought them to life in a number of ways: silly voices and faces, references both current and obscure, swatting the tushy of the Ugly Duckling (NOT in the book!), turning a not very ferocious dog into one who was Mildly Perturbed, and other things. Overall, it was a blast of fun for the audience and for me. Passion and love of what you do wins out every time, in my book.
So, I’m not a break-dancer at all. I wish I had the body for it, but I still think it’d not be my thing. I’d waltz, tango, cha cha, and rumba my way in my OWN way…and I’d piss off the purist dancers. But, my dancing partner and I would have fun.
Anyone want to dance?
Here are a couple of vids of the proceedings. Hope you like ‘em.
Came across this on FB, and thought it’d be a fun challenge: post one blog a day for the entire month of April. It’s open to anyone, doesn’t cost anything but the time it would take to write at least a 100 word blog, and it might help increase traffic on this site and my website? Put me in coach, I’m ready to play. (Not sure what that line keeps coming up for me…I’m not a sports person by any means).
So, I’ll be rambling on about being a Teaching Artist, about Arts in Education, about the silly things students say and do, about the wonderful things students say and do, the injustice in the world, joining global communities, why diversifying in today’s market is important for an artist, trying to book shows, why sometimes it just feels like I’m just hitting my head against the wall, why I still like traditional stories over true stories, and whatever is necessary to make the Blog Every Day In April a reality.
I recently had an opportunity to do a fifteen minute presentation of storytelling at a library Performers Showcase. The last time I did was years ago with my company, The Brothers Grinn. We were a fast and furious (no drifting) improv storytelling theater company. We ALWAYS got bookings from those showcases. Now, we didn’t book everyone, as I know we were not for everyone in the room. Some never got the idea of what narrative improvisation really was.
We actually had one librarian tell me, after a performance where we had the audience in our hands every second, that we were NOT storytellers. The ONLY time she felt we were telling a “real” story was when we did a gimmick game: We would tell any fairy tale in a minute and a half, then in a minute, then 30 secs, 10 secs and 1 sec. THAT game..and it’s nothing but a gimmick game, in my opinion, was the only time she considered we were storytellers. Forget the fact that our stories had beginning, middles and ends, overcame problems, saved the day, etc. Nope. A gimmick game was TRUE storytelling.
What I learned from this example, and the above showcase, is that ones own perceptions, ones POV, when close ended and blinder driven, doesn’t allow much room for other interpretations. What I forgot was that exact thing at the showcase: I went in thinking like a performing artist, not looking at what I did through the eyes of the buyers, in this case librarians. Other times it was PTA/PTO moms: same difference.
I asked for feedback from the performance. I knew I hadn’t sold everyone, and the results that came back agreed with my assessment. Some loved me and would hire me, some would never hire me (about the same who definitely would), but the largest portion were in the middle, which usually means no jobs. In the space of 15 mins, I told three different stories to show range of what I can do. Any performing artist I’ve talked to, who has seen my videos of that day, say the same thing: great range, can see your telling skills, etc. What some of the librarians saw? Disjointed, what did one story have to do with the other, TOO DRAMATIC (love that one), etc. So, everything that someone in the arts commented on, it was what I was going for. Some of the comments from the librarians showed they did not get me.
It was a learning experience once again. As artists, we get rejections time and again. I took the good, bad and indifferent ones and saw what I need to do for the next showcase. That’s on my end, and I’m grateful for the feedback.
A word to the “bookers” at showcases:
Please leave your own tastes at home, and really see what your patrons/school community likes.
You are not purchasing for your own entertainment but the library or school.
When a performer asks for some interactive help, PLEASE help them out.
I felt I had to jump up and support a few other performers who kept asking and asking, and you could see them sweat. It’s not fair to the performer. It may have looked like I was grandstanding, but.. suffer not a performer to sweat when they don’t have to.
Say “Thank You” to a performer when walking by them, whether you are going to hire them or not.
Ignoring them, or walking over to another performer & engaging them in your presence, is just rude and tacky.
Leaving your seat while another performer is on to talk to one who just finished? One woman in particular ignored an entire room of performers, booked someone who just came off stage, and never saw the person who was on at the time. She did that THREE times.
We all just looked on, and all felt one thing: very, very tacky.
A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.
~ Joseph Stalin ~
I just came home from a wonderful weekend, leading some truly amazing students at the New Jersey state Thespian Festival, held at Kean University. What was wonderful about it was seeing teenagers so truly invested and passionate about Theater Arts: Actors/Actresses, Singers, Dancers, Tech Theater, Directors/Stage Managers, Clowns, Storytellers and more. The teachers and parents I met, and the many workshop presenters, are just as committed to the enrichment that these students are embracing. Kids they may be in age (especially to us older folk) but I saw a lot of brilliant young adults emerging.
So..why the quote? I go to my home page, and that quote was waiting for me, one of many randomly generated quotes I’m met with daily. I found this same quote when I was doing research for my play, “everywhere I look…”. The play, about my father’s few stories of before and after being in Auschwitz, a Nazi Concentration Camp (with even fewer ones from his three years inside the camp), was a jumping off point for deeper research into the too numerous genocides and atrocities and oppression that have afflicted us over the last 100 years, and are still growing strong.
So..the quote. (You will notice, if you’ve read me enough, for some reason I like the words So and Now…and I love ellipses, as you can see). The quote stopped me dead in my tracks because Theater has been used throughout theater history not just as an entertainment, not just in educational entertainment (naysayers begone), but also as a political tool, a rallying cry for justice. We saw a tremendous amount of political theater grow in the ’60s, we have the work of Augusto Boal and his work with breaking symbols of oppression and giving voices to the oppressed, and there are other examples.
And I realized: looking through the program, maybe ONE of our workshops (I was one of the workshop presenters) even came close to approaching anything in that vein. Yes, there was a tremendous amount of critical and creative thinking, honing talents for both on and behind the stage, a sense of Yes You Can and striving for personal success, building confidence, finding and making connections to real life situations, and more more more.
Should the more “serious” side that theater can present, of creating thought, exploring other Points of Views, more ground shaking work exist at a Theater Festival for High School students? Is there enough time to shake them up in a one hour, maybe one and a half hour workshop, with only a weekend to grab the students and observe them “getting” it? If there is, and if we should…why aren’t we?
Japan’s earthquake just happened (and, before I got home to the quote, I listened to the news). Darfur is still happening. Libya has been designated as going through a full civil war. We are going through our own “uncivil” war of ideologies and needs and wants for the people of this county.
One person’s story, with name, photo and such, becomes something we can all recognize and empathize with. Hundreds if not thousands dead, thousands of people wondering how they will be able to survive (in earthquake destruction, genocide annihilation, or fascist underpinnings of democracy) … what are we responsible for in making things just statistics?
I had one director tell me, when I brought this item up in my play, that he/she can not be concerned about empathizing about others like I was asking in the script. Obviously, we had two very different opinions on this subject.
For me, I know I’ll be proposing in the future to run more then a character development or Shakespeare workshop. Global issues are important, and it’s so easy to forget them when you are having such an amazing time, in an amazing atmosphere. I just kinda feel we also need to challenge more then we do.
I’ve had discussions with many people about what constitutes Storytelling to them. Many have preferences over others, but they can accept other forms as legitimate. Some, sadly, in a field where we should embrace ART and have open minds, can be as close minded as anyone else.
We CAN appreciate an art form (such as music) but have differing tastes…and it should all be OK. In a creative field I feel ALL the forms within that discipline should be accepted for what it is, not relegated to a lower standing, if any at all, in the discipline.
I’m not asking if what type of teller (if teller ye be) you are…just anyone: what type of storytelling do you enjoy most?
I find myself saying that a lot lately (support other artists). I find that with everything going on, if everyone in the arts supports one another (and I mean events, museums, artists in and out of your discipline) and sticks together, more things might happen. I have found some who embrace and protect their “territory” with the fierceness of, well, any animal that would tear your throat out before sharing space with you. Thankfully, they are few and far between. Yes, we are competing for the same few rupees out there now, but I kind of hope that we can get past that, work our hardest to not be the cutthroat type and rally around each other. I’ve been called naive and too much of a dreamer before, many times, so..neener neener. Would rather feel this way then be the “who can I stab in the back to get what I want” type.
A Night of Women Writers is being led by someone I’ve quickly and deeply come to admire: Katie Issel Pitre. She and her friend Erin Rachel organized, and are hosting and telling stories at this event. For more info, go to Vaudeville Park in the fair borough of Brooklyn on Friday, March 18th. Besides the five featured women writers, there’s also an open mic. Celebrating the strength of the female voice, the stories that come from deep insides, makes this an evening to be at. Support support support.
Sadly, for THAT night, I’ll be at another event: Bronx Stories at the Bronx Museum, which I had committed to previously. I had the extreme pleasure of meeting with two women (Hannie & Bridget, take a bow) who are trying to inspire a renaissance of The Bronx. Hey…this is the only borough that’s called THE anything, and where else can you boast about Yankee Stadium (sorry Mets fans..boast about Queens) AND have a main stretch of road, The Grand Concourse, fashioned after avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris? No where else. THE Bronx. This event takes place from 6:00 to 8:30 pm, and yes, Virginia, there will be an open mic here as well.
So… I’ll say it again: support the arts. Gather up some friends, and try something new.
I JUST found this posting on a site called Zoom. I did not even see the write up that they posted until just now. Almost twelve years later, and I still can’t figure out why I and others let this drop by the wayside. Maybe now, more then ever, with all the rampant hatred going on, it’s time to revive the idea. “Grass Roots” performers all over, not just the celebs.
BTW..the article got it a bit wrong. There were 54 troupes in 24 States who joined in on the benefit. Not a big deal, but…think of it then. This was all started through the alt.com newsgroups, and then we all moved to a chat room I hosted on AOL way back when. I was ranting about the shooting of a Jewish Day Care Center in CA and the face of evil (only way I saw it) on the news of the captured gunman. For those who don’t remember, or weren’t born yet: he did not kill anyone, he only thought so. He was SMIRKING to the cameras, and he thought he killed 2-5 year olds and the staff. If that’s not evil…
So…read away. Contact me if you want to revive this idea. It’s easy for us to mouth off on FB or whatever. What are you willing to do to fight it? Albert Einstein said it best:
The world is a dangerous place to live – not because of the people who are evil but because of the people who don’t do anything about it. – Albert Einstein
Here’s the article. I guess it’s better late then never: Thank you!
In fact, it was the smirk on his face that outraged a New York man, Stuart Nager, into action.
Stuart Nager, director and founder of The Brothers Grinn, a New York State based improv company, took action the best way he knew how… by contacting his colleagues across the country and asking them to participate in a benefit for violence prevention.He named the event “Don’t Hate Us Because We’re Funny: The Improv Theater Community’s Benefit Against Violence & Hate Crimes.” Seventy troupes across the country did benefit performances in mid-November and sent their proceeds to violence prevention projects.
The five troupes shown below selected Turn Off the Violence as the organization to which their funds would go.We have used their contributions to purchase Adobe Acrobat software that will enable us to make our Educators Guide and other materials available on this website. This is another example of how all of us can use our time and talents to help “turn off the violence.”Thank you to Stuart Nager and the following improv troupes!
The Brody Theater in Portland, Oregon
The Chainsaw Boys in Brooklyn, New York
The Sunday Night Improv in New York City, New York
It used to be that to get hired at schools, libraries and the like in your local area, you hoped to be invited to perform at a Performers Showcase. If you got a chance to perform, and you were well received, you had a very good chance of getting bookings and, thus, making a living. If you were not “invited” to perform, you at least could PURCHASE space at a table in a room filled with others hoping to make an impression on the buyers (librarians, teachers, PTA or PTO moms). Yes, we still had the chance of being hired by the mailings, phone calls and the like, but those showcases gave Teaching Artists and performers more of a chance.
Now? Many of these venues have gone belly up. Yes, there are the National Organizations, but they also charge National Organization prices. Locally, in the New York City region, we’ve lost a number of these potentialities of our lifestyle. The Westchester & Mid-Hudson Library Performers Showcases both were canceled this year due to major cut backs in staff funding and firings (friendly term: down-sizing). The Westchester Arts Council long ago stopped hosting their annual event at Purchase College, as well as the PACT showcase in NYC.
We still have library showcases in: Rockland/Catskill region, New Jersey, Suffolk County of Long Island (never got a word on one for Nassau County), Connecticut and, unless I am wrong, that’s it. Performer showcases for school: again, as far as I know, only for BOCES schools on Long Island. There might still be small ones (I think in parts of New Jersey, and only for New Jersey based artists), but… it’s kind of a ghost town for performers and TAs.
Yes, there have been more and more online performer rosters (I’m on as many as I can find). You do get some work out of them, now and then, but it’s not a sure thing. Just being posted does not mean calls, let along bookings, will happen.
So…where does that leave us? To join and REALLY do the national orgs (APAP, NCAC, etc) costs a lot of money. I figured that to do the National College Campus one, with both regional and the national showcases, and to do them right, I’d need about $3,000+ (the plus are the extra fees if you’re chosen to be a main stage performer). The camp ones you need more.
Are the “Mom & Pop” showcases simply a thing of the past, and the big Walmart-like ones the only outlet for us?
I think it’s time for the growth of TA & Arts-In-Education performer guilds. The local showcases could be up and running again being manned by the performers and TAs. I did that before, with a few other AIE performers, the year after the arts council dropped theirs. It’s a lot of work, but… it was worth it. We didn’t go further for a variety of reasons, but… it was a big learning experience of what to do, what not to do, and how well planned you need to be when you book a space to hold the thing (they had their own political agenda that bollixed up a lot of things).
I volunteered my services free of charge to the two library associations to pick up some of the manpower slack. First..it serves me well to be showcased; I get nada from a canceled one. I was chosen to perform at both. Woo hoo, and the big deal that is at the end of the day. BTW…neither association went for it. I found out the decimation in their ranks was larger then what I’d first heard.