Sunday, November 1, 2009

Teller's Tea October 2009

For the October Tellers' Tea of the Australian Storytelling Guild (NSW), my tow good friends Jo Henwood and Mary French sent shivers through the entire audience at the lovely Hughenden Hotel with their tales of 'Shades and Shadows.' Both Mary and Jo have a huge talent for telling literary tales and I love getting swept away in their language and expression.
Jo kept us spellbound with her rendition of 'The signalman' by Charles Dickens and 'The shadow' by H.C. Andersen. I am always in awe of Jo's pacing and voice modulation and the Dickens' tale had the hairs on the back of my neck raised.
Mary's style is a very gentle one, deceptively so, and you quite often don't realise the sinister nature of the tale she is weaving until you are totally ensnared in the web. Her last scheduled story was in turns creepy and funny, but left the listener with much to ponder.
Our Guild President Christine Carlton asked if I'd like to share a story in the Open Mic section, and I told the Nigerian tale of 'The severed head.' This is a huge hit with upper primary grades and secondary kids. It's a short story, but packs a punch at the end, although I wasn't entirely happy with the way I delivered it this day. I don't think I spent enough time building suspense, and the ending wasn't quite as effective as it's been in the past as a result.
Christine then very cheekily asked both Mary and Jo to pull out a story from their personal 'teller's bag', to share with the audience, totally unrehearsed. Of course, being the consumate professionals that they are, both stories were fantastic.
I always come away from these Tellers' Teas totally inspired and entertained.

Hunter Vally storytelling October 2009

Sometimes a booking inquiry comes along that just really gives you pause for thought.
An email arrived in late September asking if I would be interested in telling stories to the groom and his wedding party on the morning of his wedding, in the Hunter Valley. My immediate question to myself was, "What sort of stories do they want?"
My trusty correspondent replied that they were really interested in the stories I described on my Guild webpage; folktales of other lands, and stories that would be calming and impart wisdom on such an important day. He also informed me that the venue would be a private property, only one of two on a back lane in the Hunter Valley. At this point, my lovely husband offered to drive me and stay in the car while I did the gig.
So, all systems go. The stories were agreed to, as was the fee. I deliberately made it lower than usual, because the whole concept intrigued me, and I wanted to ensure that I got the gig. I was viewing it as a learning experience.
I was so thrilled by the whole gig. What a great bunch of young men (and several girls who I think were either sisters or girlfriends). They told me they wanted something relaxing for the morning of the wedding, and after considering tai chi, decided that storytelling sounded really different and interesting. They were such an engaged audience, and so prepared to take part in the story experience. By the second story, they were happily participating in the tale of Anansi the spider, by playing musical instruments. Anansi has never sounded so good.
When it started to rain, we moved from our idyllic spot on the pool deck, with its expansive views of paddocks and dams, to the cosy pool room, with comfy chairs and lounges. To get us back into the story realm, I began a rhythmic chant and they all rapidly joined in. The whole room was incredibly quiet as I told the Maori legend of 'Hinemoa and Tutanekai' in honour of the groom and his bride travelling to New Zealand for their honeymoon. The silence at the end of that story was just music to my ears, as each listener took their own time in returning to reality.
I lightened the mood for the final story, and each listener did origami folds along with me as I related the story of 'The rainhat.' This is a fantastic story that adapts so easily to fit almost any theme. In this case, I adapted it to be all about the groom, and his efforts to prepare for, and arrive at, his own wedding.
Several of the audience members told me how relaxed they were after the storytelling, and one guy told me he would have been happy to sit and listen to more stories for another two hours. When I asked my correspondent if the storytelling was what he had expected when he made the booking, I was shattered when he replied,
"Ah no, nothing like it."
"I'm so sorry," I stammered.
With a cheeky grin, he said,
It was so much better than anything I could have imagined. Thank you so much for helping to make Brad's wedding day special.

This gig was an absolute blast, and I'm so pleased that I decided to accept the very unusual booking. Several photos were taken of me with the whole group, and I really hope I am sent copies as promised.

Children's Book Week storytelling 2009

September brought a late Children's Book Week booking at St John's School at Woy Woy. This was my 5th year at the school for CBW. With the theme for 2009 being 'Book safari' it was time for the 1st ever appearance of 'Jungle Julie'; safari adventurer extraordinaire.

I absolutely love telling at this school; it's one of my favourite venues. I spend a morning telling stories to the entire school, split over age groupings. The library is a fantastic space to tell in, and the students and entire staff get right into the spirit of CBW, and always come dressed appropriate to the theme. The kids are a great audience; really good listeners but with enough spunk to get involved at the slightest encouragement.
'Jungle Julie' is a really out-there, eccentric character,

and had each group slightly shocked initially, with her raucous voice and bizarre behaviour. But once the kids got used to her, boy was there some fun that day.
Bless Ann Hall, my good friend and school librarian; she was my straight-guy for the day, and responded perfectly to everything that 'Jungle Julie' threw at her.
As usual, I finished the day of telling at St John's absolutely exhausted, but so keyed up by the great time we all had.
With the theme of "Build the story bridge' next year, I wonder what character we can dream up; a demented engineer perhaps?