Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Lyceum performance

Last week at the National Storytelling Conference in Oklahoma City, I performed in the Lyceum (a.k.a. the Fringe). This was the first year of the Fringe Festival. Last fall, over 60 storytellers put their names in a lottery to tell a long performance piece at the conference. I'd been at the top of the waiting list for a couple of months, but when I left home on Wednesday, I figured I wouldn't be telling.

On Friday morning, I got word that the fellow who was supposed to be on at 7:00 p.m. had not yet shown up and hadn't registered. I was the next on the waiting list, so for the rest of the day, I wondered if I'd get to tell. Just in case, I had brought flyers for "Blood, guts, spies and fat naked ladies: the Bulgarian stories." I passed these around with the warning that I might not be on, if the fellow showed up.

I had planned to go to workshops in the afternoon, but decided to rest, soak in the hot tub, and work on my story. At around 5, I learned that registration was closed and the storyteller on the schedule still hadn't arrived (he has a reputation for showing up late). Since the Lyceum performers were required to be registered for the whole conference, it was clear I'd be performing.

Was I ready? I hoped so. I knew that the beginning and ending parts of the story were solid. I'd been telling them for years in performance. I had told the middle parts conversationally for years as well.

I've heard other tellers talk about how scary it is to tell to other storytellers. I didn't feel that. The audience was full of friends as well as folks I'd never met. Barbara Schutzgruber and Mary Hamilton, two of the organizers for this event, made me feel completely at ease. Before I began, I showed the assembled crowd a couple of my warm-ups. The good energy in the room was palpable.

When storytelling works, it can be like a dance with the listeners, each of us taking our steps at the perfect time. This story felt like that, even in the less polished parts. Aaah.


Tim said...

I'm so glad you got to do your show, and even more glad that I got a chance to see it.
I have to say it is much more fun to see you tell live than the experience of listening to you streaming via the internet to my laptop.
My favorite story was the first one, about your boyfriend and your Bulgarian teacher.
Congratulations on a job well done!

Anonymous said...

So, I came over to read your blog about the Lyceum performance... You did a good job of explaining about how you came to tell there, but nothing about the performance itself. Or almost nothing. Guess you're too humble to describe how good the show must have been...;)
At least I have Tim E.'s opinion about which was his favorite. I respect his opinion regarding all things "Fringe" so I'm confident that it was a good show. Hope I get to see it someday.

PriscillaHowe said...

Thanks for the comments, Tim and Mark.

I've been telling the first part of the story, "Blood" for the past few years. The embedded story is an actual Bulgarian folktale. I worked on that story with some middle school kids, who gave me some great feedback (and some awful suggestions, but of course I have control over what I use).

Sorry to have left out the meat of the story, Mark! I'm not quite sure how to describe it. The first part is about giving blood in Belgium, my Ecuadorean boyfriend, and my Bulgarian teacher's reaction to both. The second part, "Guts" is about going to Bulgaria for ten months with $980 in my pocket and an invitation to study (a photocopy of a telegram). "Spies" is about the political/social climate in Bulgaria in the early 80s. "Fat Naked Ladies" has to do with a trip to a nude beach on the Black Sea. Following that was a postscript, "Marina", one of the very first stories I ever wrote to tell to adults, from the point of view of a Bulgarian woman in NYC.

I don't think that really describes it, but that's the flow. There are a few more parts: one about a ferris wheel operator in Veliko Turnovo, one about my roommate Elka's grandmother Baba Raina, and one about a woman in her 60s who used to be in a Bulgarian dance troupe that travelled to the west.

Anonymous said...

This whets my curiosity! How glad I am that you got to tell, even by a fluke. I shall pass on the whole title to Lisa, who hopes you'll tell at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 6. Love & pats for JoeFish