Sunday, August 17, 2008

R.I.P. Doc Mcconnell

A staple of the Jonesborough Festival has passed.
Doc McConnell, Sept. 20, 1928 - Aug. 16, 2008.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Farewell, U. Utah Phillips

Folksinger, Storyteller, Railroad Tramp Utah Phillips Dead at 73.

Official obituary from the family.

The link is to his web site, where you can also find links to various recordings, from podcasts to CDs.

His recording of "Moose Turd Pie" should be required listening for all aspiring storytellers.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Variety Reviews John Lithgow, Storyteller

I've often enjoyed actor John Lithgow reading aloud on the radio program "Selected Shorts." Now it seems he's opened a one-man show at Lincoln Center, "John Lithgow: Stories by Heart."

Variety lists the show as a "play," and it does have a director. And it does take place in a theater.

But apparently the show is mostly Mr. Lithgow telling stories of his family, and of the role stories and storytelling played in his family. The show includes recitations of poetry by Oliver Wendell Holmes and prose by P.G. Wodehouse.

I found this quote illuminating:
...(the play) encourages auds to make their own connection to the material, without demanding that we celebrate Lithgow's life. He grounds the classics by explaining what they meant to his family, but his biography is supporting material, not the solipsistic main event.

It reminds me of the best of storytellers, who disappear behind their stories. And what you are left with is not the feeling that the storyteller had an interesting life, but a connection with the storyteller, who was able to capture some universal feeling (of pride, of embarassment, of loss, of fear, of love) and share it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sometimes I Wish I Lived in Alabama

Not all the time. Mostly only when I hear Kathryn Tucker Windham tell stories.

Now I just learned that the Birmingham Museum of Art is hosting a retrospective of her work-- not her storytelling, mind you, but 50 years of black and white photographs, including some taken with her first Brownie, purchased in 1930. Most, I gather, were taken during her career as a journalist. Most depict small town life in Alabama from the Depression through the Civil Rights era. I suspect, given Kathyrn's eye for detail in her storytelling, and her career that took her across the state, that she captured some wonderful images on film. Wish I could see them.

If by some chance, you're passing through Alabama before May 25, stop by the exhibit, and let me know what you thought.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Baby Storytelling

I've noticed on YouTube, if you do a search on "storyteller," you get a host of precious thirty second to two minute home videos of toddlers babbling.

(Actually, you first get a lot of pirated clips from Jim Henson's The Storyteller series, but that's a post for another day)

So. The home movies. The chatty babies. Their doting parents and grandparents immediately tag or title the clip "storyteller."

It took me ages to figure out why.

I think it's because they are capturing their child caught up in the joy of language, the sound of language, the music of it. For the first time, they see their child not demanding food, or sleep, or a beloved object out of reach. Suddenly they see that their child is doing something with language beyond expressing direct needs.

Interesting that they call this "storytelling," and not "poetry" or "echolalia" or "mouth music." I don't believe for a moment that a one-year old is trying to express a narrative by this babbling, as extensive as it is. They're not telling a story.

But it's fascinating that the default assumption of parents is that their wee bairn has stepped up her language skills, and that this next step they call "storytelling."

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Storytelling is Alive and Well (in the Papers, anyway)

Don't know why, but there was a burst of stories about storytellers and storytelling in the press last week.

Creative Loafing Atlanta January 30, 2008

with audio podcast here

The Times of London February 1, 2008

The Baltimore Sun
February 3, 2008

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Farewell to Scotland's Greatest Storyteller

Duncan Williamson (1928-2007)

The English-speaking world has lost another of its giants of the oral tradition, storyteller and singer Duncan Williamson.

Link is to the obituary in the Independent.
Here are the links to the Times of London's, and the Guardian's.