Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Why did they call the movie "Tristan and Isolde"?

I went to see the movie "Tristan and Isolde" yesterday and I'm trying to figure out why they called it that. They could have called it "Thomas and Ivy," or any other two names, for all the resemblance it had to the traditonal tale. I know, I know, stories have many versions, but when there are this many changes, it becomes a different story. The filmmakers took a wonderful, rich, enduring story and completely eviscerated it. They took out all the good parts, added in quite a bit of gratuitous violence and some trite plot points, and now they're trying to pass it off as the classic story. Hmmph.

Here are a few elements the filmmakers removed:
  • Tristan's mother dying when he was born,
  • His squire Gorvenal, who is a major figure throughout the story,
  • Tristan being kidnapped by pirates,
  • Tristan finding himself in Cornwall, not knowing that King Mark of Cornwall was his uncle, his mother's brother (why did the moviemakers write it as "Marke"? Maybe because it was in Olde Englande.),
  • The giant, Morholt was Iseult's uncle, not her suitor,
  • A piece of Tristan's sword breaking off in Morholt's skull, killing him,
  • Iseult's fury at Morholt's death and her oath to kill any man from Cornwall, especially Tristan,
  • Tristan killing the dragon, thereby gaining Iseult as King Mark's wife,
  • The LOVE POTION!!!
I have to stop here before the grinding of my teeth gets worse--this is only the first part of the story, and they left out all that. There's much more they left out. I'm especially annoyed that they got rid of the love potion, because that is the pivot on which the rest of the story turns. Don't even ask me about the ending, which was a total cop-out.

There was lots of blood, lots of swordplay and arrows being shot at people. The actors were very pretty, as they should be, but they were completely uninspired. I wanted to tell Tristan to stand up straight--stop slumping, lad! The filmmakers added some stock characters (the rival nephew, the leader of another clan who was bent on betrayal) and made the story revolve around the evil King of Ireland. Huh? It's true, in the traditional versions, the Irish King levied a tax on Cornwall, but he was in favor Iseult marrying King Mark so the lands would have peace.

This could have been a wonderful movie. What a missed chance.

In response, I'll be telling the story three times in March: at the Lawrence Visitor's Center/Union Depot on March 3 (7:30 p.m., if you're in the area), at a nearby Juvenile Detention Center, and at Going Deep: the Long Traditional Story Festival in Bethlehem IN. I'll tell it and tell it and tell it. So there.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Fun in New Jersey

Last week was a hoot! The best day was Monday, when I told stories at Cliffwood Elementary School, in Cliffwood NJ (I don't know how long the pictures will be on the website, but check out the photo gallery on the site).

How did I get to New Jersey, other than by plane? Through a series of fortunate events, the fabulous school librarian has had my recordings for a couple of years and has played them for her students. Susan and I had begun a correspondence about storytelling by e-mail. In one e-mail, she wondered if I would ever be near enough to come to her school. When I realized that I would be in Philadelphia for the International Performing Arts for Youth Showcase, I e-mailed her and suggested we try to set up a day of storytelling. It worked!

I stayed with Susan, her daughter, two dogs and a cat not far from Cliffwood. Monday morning we leapt into the car and went to school, talking the whole way. A big sign inside the front door welcomed me to the school, as did every staff member I met. The library was festooned with pictures from the stories the kids had listened to in anticipation of my visit. The Gunniwolf and the little girl decorated one wall, cat and mouse sat at the ends of the bookstacks, the ghost with the one black eye was right behind me, a washing machine and dryer adorned another wall. The week before, Susan had brought my website up on the big screen television so the kids could listen to stories not on the cds and they could see my pictures.

It's great fun to tell stories to kids who are already on my side. When they came in, I asked which stories were their favorites, promised to tell at least one of these, and warned that I would also be telling some stories they'd never heard. They were all excellent listeners, even the preschoolers who had not heard me before.

This was one of those good schools where the principal came to listen periodically during the day--I do understand that principals are busy, but sometimes they don't even come out of their offices to see what the children are doing. Fortunately, I find that engaged and interested principals like Kelly Bera at Cliffwood are getting to be the norm.

When I'm at a school all day, I like to eat with the kids. I'll even eat school lunch. Cliffwood has a special "teacher soup," so I had that, beef with barley. Yum. I table hopped, eating my own lunch, talking to the kids about what stories they liked, about their favorite school lunch, about their pets and siblings. Even the third graders who hadn't heard me yet wanted to talk to me. Later the teacher said that when it was time for them to come to the storytelling, they got right up and in line.

I did four sessions, with a little extra for the afternoon preschoolers. Normally I'm tired after a full day, but I still had some energy, so after work Susan and I took her dogs out to the beach, for a walk for us and a run for them. As a native Rhode Islander I'm always happy to be near salt water. Then home to a delicious supper and a PBS special on TV. What a day. Ahhh.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Good press

What's this? Two blog posts in the same day? And you thought I'd forgotten I even had a blog!

Last week I had some wonderful press: an article on the front page of the Kansas City Star by Malcolm Garcia. I've had various articles about me over the years, but never one that really focused on the storytelling I do for adults. Malcolm came to a performance in a bookstore, then came back a few days later for a full-length interview. He captured what I do fairly well, from my path to storytelling, to the way I practice (walking, sometimes bouncing a rubber ball for timing, gesturing, mumbling to myself), to the feel of a performance.

I don't know how long the article will be on the website--even if it's gone by the time you read this, you'll probably find something interesting in Malcolm's Heartland Journal.

Happy 2006!

So far, so good for 2006. Two days in and all is well. As an eternal Pollyanna, I expect that this will continue.

Here are a few things I'm looking forward to in 2006:

Going to New Jersey next week to tell stories, then continuing on to Philadelphia to the International Performing Arts for Youth showcase. I'll have an exhibit booth there. My button-machine is still smoking from production of story buttons (the most popular at the last booking conference I went to was my tagline, "All my stories start with a seed of truth").

Telling love stories for adults on Valentine's Day at the Union Depot in Lawrence, and probably telling Tristan and Iseult a few weeks later. I wonder what the new movie of this epic story will be like!

Going Deep: the Long Traditional Story Festival in Bethlehem IN March 16-19. This is part of a long-time dream. I think there's still space in this festival, so contact me if you're interested in a really intense and wonderful story experience.

The Mid-Missouri Storytelling Festival in April. Every time I've been to Central Missouri, I've had a great time.

Traveling to Turkey and Bulgaria with friends in May. It has been 13 years since I was in Bulgaria and I can't wait to go back! I've never been to Turkey, so that will be a great adventure. Maybe I'll even get to tell stories on this trip.

Returning to the Smoky Hill River Festival in Salina KS, June 9-11. Whooeee! I love this festival! Not only is it a wonderful all-around festival, with music, arts, crafts, children's activities and a specific storytelling stage away from the children's stage, but lots of the kids in Salina know me from storytelling residencies I've done in the schools throughout the years.

Stories, stories, stories. I'll keep you posted as the year goes along.

May you all have a fabulous 2006!