Friday, June 16, 2006

The Smoky Hill River Festival last week

I can hardly believe a week has gone by since the first day of the 30th annual Smoky Hill River Festival. I've been a bit busy, to say the least.

I love this festival. I even love it when it's 100 degrees fahrenheit, when nobody has energy, when I can't remember any stories in my repertoire, when my hands are melting inside the puppets, when I'm drinkng fifteen bottles of water just to keep minimally hydrated. That's how Friday and Saturday were. Sunday was cooler, audiences and performers were more lively, and it was generally an easier day.

Here's what I love about the festival:

The crowds are friendly and the general atmosphere is relaxed. Everybody expects to have a good time, so they do. There's a strong sense of tradition--people come back year after year.

It's big fun to perform on the Storytelling Stage, a separate venue from the Children's Stage. Over in this shady tent, I often get groupies, kids and adults who have seen me at the festival in the past or in other venues. I'm happy to fill requests and to tell stories they might not have heard before. Newcomers to storytelling also come to the tent to see what it's all about. It's especially nice when families come to the stage and sit for hours listening to one storyteller after another.

The other performers are always high-caliber, and great fun to hang out with in between sets and afterwards. This builds the appreciation for storytelling in Kansas. This year, the National Storytelling Network is giving Sharon Benson of the Salina Arts and Humanities Commission a regional award for bringing so much storytelling to Kansas, both for the festival and for the Arts Infusion program in the schools. This year Sharon brought in Eth-noh-tec, Ricardo Provencio, Joyce Slater and me.

Because I rove around the festival grounds with a puppet, I get to make people laugh while enjoying the music from both stages (Trixie and Mavis both love to dance), the arts, the crafts, the children's activities and the food.

Did I mention the food? Yum. I don't go in for the seafood quesadillas (in Kansas in the summer? Yikes!) or the giant turkey legs, but my favorites are the Indian tacos, Italian sausage, homemade vanilla ice cream and fresh squeezed lemonade.

On top of all this, the festival staff and volunteers take great care of the performers. They understand the limitations of an outdoor festival (heat, humidity, etc.) and make a real effort to help us out so we can perform at our best.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Quick update

Yikes! It's already June and I'm about to leap into the fray. I finally got my calendar up on, so check it out if you're wondering where I'll be this summer.

Here are a few things that have been going on in my life lately:

Tonight I made the dog puppet for "The Dog Prince," the puppet show I'm doing in July for the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. As I may have mentioned before, I don't often do puppet shows with a stage, but TSCPL asks me every year and every year I say yes. I'm still working on the story line of this skewed version of "The Frog Prince." It's quite a relief to have all the main characters made. I also don't often sew, except for truly bizarre-looking puppets.

The DVD and CD projects are coming along. The DVD started as a demo only, but I've decided to make it into a commercial piece as well. It's now 36 minutes long, but on Monday I'll do a bonus track of The ghost with the one black eye. The CD will be longer, but will have the same stories as on the DVD (except The ghost).

I had a great time with houseguests last week from Vermont and Washington DC. We were quite busy: went on a drive through the Flint Hills, visited the Baker Wetlands, went to Kansas City and ate barbecue at Arthur Bryant's (read Calvin Trillin on this KC institution). We wandered around downtown Lawrence and walked around in the country. We played games (Ruckus, dice, Scrabble) and Helen made a gooseberry-strawberry-apple pie. She also did a lot of gardening for me! I still have lots of weeds to contend with in the back garden. Both Kristen and Helen gave the cat a huge amount of attention, which he loved.

I've begun swimming again. I'm going to try hard to keep it up all summer. I have lots of work again, though not as crazily wild as last year. I'll do a better job if I'm exercising regularly.

Next week I have my first library gig of the year, at the Overbrook Public Library. I was just there in March and had a grand time. Then on Thursday I head out to the Smoky Hill River Festival in Salina, KS. I love this festival! I haven't performed there for a few years, though I've been in the Salina schools, so kids will recognize me. The weather forecast for next week is for HOT, HOT, HOT. We'll see.