Saturday, January 29, 2005

Storytelling at the Raven

Last week I had a pretty fun gig at the Raven Bookstore in downtown Lawrence, KS. Back in December I decided it was time to do a public performance in town, after being asked for about the fifth time in a week when I'd have a show. I went directly to the Raven and asked Pat if I could do a performance in January. Easy peasy.

It turned out to be a great time to do a show there: the middle of January, when not much is going on in town yet, and in a slow news week for the arts. I got several small notices in the Journal World and a bigger one in the arts calendar for the weekend, not to mention the ads the Raven put in. I felt like the flavor of the week. (Thanks, Mindie!)

Whooeee! I had a substantial crowd in this small space. Most were groupies, most were under age 9 though accompanied by their adults. There were even some unaccompanied grownups. I asked for requests. The kids gave me a collective blank look until I explained that meant I would tell stories they particularly liked. The hands shot up and I launched into "Poule and Blatte," the story of the chicken and the cockroach who fell in love. Then on to other requests.

I did tell one story most of the listeners had never heard:"The Bellybutton Bird," a Japanese folktale. I also told "The Ghost with the One Black Eye" in Bulgarian after telling it in English. It's such a physical story that the kids understand it all and some even join in. I got partway through that and realized that the fellow by the door was in fact Bulgarian. Yikes! One observer part of my brain shifted into worry that I'd messed it up, while another observer said, "Get over it. Keep telling the dang story." I listened to the second.

Later my sister reminded me that this guy was probably pleased--where else around here could he go to a storytelling performance with his kids and hear a story in his own language?

I ran into Pat a few days later. Though she hadn't been there, she said she'd heard lots of good feedback about the performance, including from her own grandchildren. It's likely we'll do this again next January.

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