Saturday, October 29, 2011

More travels in Kansas and Missouri

I've been happily busy this past month, traveling around Kansas and Missouri. I've been to Columbia, Stockton and El Dorado Springs, MO, as well as Topeka, Scott City, Burlingame, Altoona, Fredonia and Overland Park, KS. This has been an eclectic month. Since Oct. 1, I have
  • told stories for the public, including a large group from a Montessori school, at a community center, 
  • guest taught a community college class in public speaking for my friend Kareen King,
  • visited a high school art class for a performance/workshop designed to get the kids to think about how to translate storytelling into visual images,
  • worked with four groups of 8th graders for two days on storytelling, oral communications and writing,
  • performed for elementary school assemblies,
  • joined the Fine Arts Chorale of KC for another fun Halloween concert at the library (program: music, story, music, story, music, story, music, milk and cookies),
  • told stories at public libraries for kids and a large group from a nursing home,
  • told funny-scary stories at a Halloween celebration for families at a large corporation.
It has been a blast, as always, and has involved a lot of driving. Here is some of what I've seen:

Old School, literally.
I drove past Claflin on my way to Scott City (that's about a 7 hour drive from my house). I always think of storyteller Willy Claflin when I see this sign.

This is in Scott City, KS. I ate at the adjoining Mexican restaurant, where they had a lovely chile relleno. Not roadkill.

This abandoned limestone house is a typical sight on the plains of Kansas. The early settlers built these houses to last! 

I love the colors of Kansas in the fall. The red is a field of milo (sorghum). 

Here's milo close up.

Classic advertising on the walls in Fredonia, KS.

Last month I wrote about Gas, KS and said I regretted not getting a picture of the Bank of Gas. I passed Gas (pardon me)on my way to Altoona and Fredonia for this photo.

Next I'll write about the residency in Scott City with 8th graders.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Back to Jonesborough

I went to the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee this year for the first time since 2008. I started going to the festival in 1989. I think I've been eight times now--I'm jealous of my storytelling friends who go every year. I went late this year, traveling with my friend Joyce Slater on Friday instead of Thursday. We had a 6:00 a.m. flight from Kansas City (I almost wrote "plight" and that wasn't too far off). Though that meant getting up at 3:45 a.m., we arrived in Tennessee at noon and got to the festival in time to get lunch and listen to stories.

I'm not going to write here about the ongoing political issues with the festival, the town and the storytelling organizations, so if you expect me to dish some dirt, you'll have to look elsewhere for mudpies.

Of course I go to the festival to hear great stories, but I also go to see my "tribe," other storytellers. It's a place where we don't have to explain what it is we do, or why. I always come home refreshed.

There were five tents this year. I think each holds about 1800-2000 people. As always, some of the sets were olios, an old vaudeville term for sessions that offer several storytellers one after another. Some were solo performances and some were shared sets with two storytellers.

The Library Tent from the outside
The Library Tent from the inside
I had some favorite storytellers this year, as I always do. Though I am not a costume-wearing storyteller myself, I thoroughly enjoyed Dolores Hydock's Eglamore and Cristobel, in which she is the Medieval narrator: 

I also heard her tell more contemporary stories in a couple of other sets without costume and it was just as compelling. 

Speaking of compelling, Clare Muireann Murphy was also fabulous. She's from Ireland, which doesn't mean she only tells Irish stories (I was reminded of my friend Synia who made the point that though she's African-American, she didn't want to be hemmed into only telling African and African-American stories). Here's one Clare told:

And of course, my friend Megan Hicks was wonderful. She was a "New Voice," the designation the festival gives for tellers who are new to the main stage--some "New Voices" have been telling for decades. Megan's telling was strong and true. I saw her get three standing ovations! Yay! This video isn't a story I heard her tell, and of course in Jonesborough she was on the main stage, not in a place where a cat might walk behind her (I love that!), but this shows one of her styles, a fractured fairy tale: 

I say one of her styles, because she also told a historical tale and traditional tales that were not fractured. 

There were many other amazing storytellers there: Willy Claflin, Bill Harley, Donald Davis, Lyn Ford, Gene Tagaban, Elizabeth Ellis and others. I went to the Exchange Place, the regional showcase (I was in this in 2001) and joined in the cheering on of these storytellers who may one day be on the main stage. We all missed the venerable Kathryn Tucker Windham, who died earlier this year. We all wondered if we'd be back next year for the 40th anniversary of this festival.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Images of Allen County

I thought I'd add a few images from my residency in Allen County, Kansas last month. This first one is of the steps up to what was once the old bank (for rent, if you're interested): 

Many small towns in Kansas have ornate storefronts, at least on the upper storeys. These days, you'll often find flea markets and antique stores in rural towns. Here are a couple of views of downtown Iola:

Between Iola and Moran is the town of Gas. Yup, that's it's name, after the natural gas found in the area. I didn't get a picture of the Bank of Gas, but I did stop at Bonnie's Corner Cafe. Alas, this venerable establishment is closing. I had a good burger there and listened to the local news broadcast by the waitress, Bonnie's daughter. If you can't see the words on this sign, read the caption.

Bonnie's Corner Cafe--Don't just pass Gas, stop and enjoy it!--Golden Dipt Chicken

Humboldt is one of those towns with a big water tower downtown. Sometimes these structures are on the outskirts. When I'm driving to a small community in Kansas, I keep my eye out for the next water tower, because I know there will be a town there, maybe even my destination.

I'm happy to see beautiful buildings like this one in Humboldt getting smartened up. Check out the brickwork! There were some amazing masons in Kansas in the past.