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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Rothschild - "Honest Abe" anecdote - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

This flows naturally from last week's discussion about the possible mythical role of Betsy Ross creating the first U.S. flag and Parson Weems's creations of American myth like the tale of George Washington and the chopping of the cherry tree.


















































































































This was a great look at the early way Abraham Lincoln managed to use storytelling.  If anyone wants to look at the footnotes in this story or read more about "Honest Abe"; A Study in Integrity Based on the Early Life of Abraham Lincoln by Alonzo Rothschild, the entire book is found online at Archive.org where they, too, are Keeping the Public in Public Domain.


To my mind Rothschild certainly beats the original Childhood of Famous Americans series, published by Bobbs-Merrill in the 1930s through the 1950s and still in many libraries when I began to work as a librarian.  Still I know they were beloved in their own time and someday will be Public Domain, too.  For now, if you really want them, they're in many an antique store, and they are a look at literature of that period...always something to keep in mind when evaluating a story.  Former English teacher and now homeschool teacher, Juliette Holden, reviewed the new version of the series in her blog, Jane Austen Mama.  As the mother and teacher of a child with visual difficulties that might have also been labeled a learning disability, she values the new series.  As she points out, "Each biography focuses on a childhood incident in the famous American's life which is not only true but also applicable to something memorable in their adult life."  It's interesting that the first example she gives is of a young Betsy Ross and her thimble, learning to be true to her own interests and talents."  I confess I was a bit shocked to find some of the new series in our church library's children's biography section.  Clearly they still teach values, but my only caution would be to remember the level of fictionalization.  Going on Amazon for reviews, at present, all rate George Washington: Young Leader from the series positively, but the four star reviews note the need to recognize the fictionalization.  Still I notice that, even though written in 1942 and repackaged and newly illustrated, it avoids the Parson Weems tale of that bothersome cherry tree. Since Betsy Ross's book is about her childhood, we don't even have to consider if she truly made the first flag or not.  A story, however, can be "true" even if it isn't factual.  Hmmm.  Looks like those issues Rivka raised are still with us.

Come back next week for the final look, for now?, at American myths that have been waving like the flag on Independence Day.

This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories. 

At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my normal monthly posting of a research project here.  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my monthly postings as often as I can manage it.    


  
There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I recommended it earlier and want to continue to do so.  Have fun discovering even more stories!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

About that Flag story...

Comments are always welcome on my blog even if Blogger's software isn't as receptive to displaying them as I might prefer.  The Betsy Ross story about making the first flag sparked an off-the-blog dialog with

New Jersey storyteller, Rivka Willick.



Like me, Rivka tells many a historical program.  Being a true lover of her home state of New Jersey, her comment just had to mention Francis Hopkinson and the possibility he was just as likely to deserve the credit for our first flag.  She sent me the link about Hopkinson and it's interesting he not only signed the Declaration of Independence, but even has documented design experience for many official designs including working on the second version of the Great Seal of the United States.  Still his role in the design of the revolutionary flag has never been confirmed any more than we can be sure about the tale of Elizabeth Claypool Ross.




My own response to that, opening emails back and forth a bit, was: Wondered if anybody was going to count on the possible mythical nature of the story. Of course our Public Domain stories include a lot of that sort of thing and some time I probably need to do an article on it.  That's some research that may be overdue or it just may be a case of our storytelling being true even if it's not exactly what happened. Didn't know your specific NJ gentleman, but posted my appreciation for your comment. Wish Blogger let those comments be a bit more visible. Thank you for your own contribution.

Rivka next mentioned Parson Weems' role in our American "mythology", saying: I keep finding 'American History for Kids' as 80 parts myth and 20 parts truth.  Parson Weems wanted to write a book about the childhood of our first president, and when he realized the modesty and styles of the times didn't collect stories about children, he made them up.  If you ask the average person if the George and the Cherry tree is true, they'll say yes.  If you ask them if it's a myth, more will say yes, few know it's a fabricated literary story.  I have a feeling Betsy Ross might fall into that category, especially if the designer wanted to get paid.  The early Congress did a lot of nasty things to avoid unnecessary expenses. 

If you look into Weems' work, he wrote four books in the first  generation of the 19th century titled The Life of (beginning with Washington, then General Francis Marion; Benjamin Franklin, with Essays; and William Penn), but it was The Life of Washington with its cherry tree story, now acknowledged as a myth, which ties his name to Rivka's " 'American History for Kids' as 80 parts myth and 20 parts truth."

It was why I commented back: Ah, yes, Parson Weems.  That and those Childhood of Famous Americans books certainly produced our American mythology.  My problem is when I'm doing historical reenactment programs like an old-time rural schoolteacher, that was precisely the material she used to mold her students.  The material could be called moldy, but it was the character education of our ancestors.  The trick is to find both the truth -- in the sense of facts -- and the value.
LoiS(tarting to feel another project coming on) 
and Rivka replied: Sometimes I wonder if this is the norm of all mythology.  A story gets created and the orginators are forgotten, so we don't know why it was created, we just have the creation. In the last couple hundred years with all of our technology creating cheap printed content, we can trace back the who and maybe even the why.  But I think there will be push back because we crave myth and folklore and maybe we just don't want to know the real story. Just a thought.
 
Just a thought indeed.  

Rivka had heard yet another interesting story related to Parson Weems, prairie schools, and how this tale of Washington's boyhood honesty and an ax influenced "Honest Abe" Lincoln.  It's a funny story for Lincoln had a way with storytelling himself.  Come back next week as part of my Keeping the Public in Public Domain series to see what I mean.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Dillingham - First Flag of the United States - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

As the 4th of July approaches, this is a bit early, but the story of our 1st flag (and how to make 5-pointed stars) needs telling.
 

I sometimes say I'm Origami-impaired, but even so I love this story.  Thank heavens Betsy Ross's uncle knew her talent, including folding a 5-pointed star.  This came from the same book, "Tell It Again" Stories, by Elizabeth Thompson Dillingham and Adelle Powers Emerson I mentioned at the start of June.  That article is worth another look and the entire book is available at Archive.org, including several holiday stories. 

While you're looking back here, remember all the rest of June I had puppetry-related articles and would love to see you at the Great Lakes Regional Puppetry Festival in Detroit, July 25-27.  It's not too late, but it was the June focus of this blog to give you plenty of time to schedule it.  Hope to see you at my own workshop,  A to Z, Puppets Are Easy, so you can...
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This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories. 

At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my normal monthly posting of a research project here.  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my monthly postings as often as I can manage it.    


  
There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I recommended it earlier and want to continue to do so.  Have fun discovering even more stories!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Hansl and Kaufmann - Gounod - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Today's final puppetry related post for this month includes a lot of YouTube videos along with a Public Domain selection.  In attempting to stay puppetry related, the "Funeral March of the Marionette" by Charles Gounod popped into my head.  

That brief classical music piece presents a bit of a challenge for puppeteers as I look ahead to July's 

at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

I've never seen any stories about the Funeral March of the Marionette, but like many people the first thing the music triggered in my mind was the old 1955 to 1965 t.v. show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents.  YouTube is loaded with videos related to that.  Supposedly composer Bernard Herrmann suggested the piece to Hitchcock.  Much as I enjoyed the great director stepping into his outline to Gounod's short composition, this time I really wanted a puppet, not a director who, like Andersen's "Puppet-Show Man", used actors as his puppets.

YouTube had 3, well maybe 4, videos that came close.  
  • No information is given on this European version of Funeral March for a Marionette, but it is the only one showing actual marionettes moving through the video.  It combines a small orchestral group with the show projected above the musicians.  The marionettes are shown in actual European settings like an unnamed "Stadsmuseum" after leaving a puppet stage.  The concept is interesting, but I didn't care for the musical performance's tinny arrangement.  As a result the marionettes never really excited me even though I liked seeing people walking past them and the museum's display of toys where the "dead" marionette ended.
  • Various types of hand puppets are more my personal style and Anzovin Studio's  award winning computer generated animated film, Puppet, ends the way I'm sure my efforts with marionettes would.  It's a humorous look at a puppeteer, Dennis the Dog, trying to control a rebellious puppet who looks like himself.  The puppeteer's own personality also makes the ending just right.  It's not a real puppet video, however, so on to yet another video.
  • Again it's animated, but this time using puppets in Eric Fonseca’s stop motion Funeral March for a Marionette.  It does a wonderful job of catching both the spirit of the music and fulfilling the title.  Fonseca also is an award winner, in this case from the San Antonio Film Festival.  Various interviews can also be found on YouTube explaining how stop motion filming the puppets required a year to produce the 6 minute film where “4 seconds on screen was about 4 hours in the garage.”  Amazingly this was his first video.  Learning from it he went on to create the 40 minute/4 year project, “Fall of the House of the Usher.”  I find it interesting that everybody compares his artwork to that of Tim Burton's films.  It's true, but for years I've noticed how Danny Elfman's music is a crucial element in Burton's final work.  The Fonseca film throws down a gauntlet to puppeteers trying to do a live version.  A workshop at the Motor City Puppet Blast on Friday, July 25, 11:45-12:45 by Larry Larson will be on “ Techniques of Stop Motion Puppet Construction” if this style of puppetry captures your interest.
  • There's one other video I loved which uses Gounod's composition.  Out of the Box takes the idea of a music box and reimagines the piece as ballet with a music box dancer learning to move.  Since Gounod also wrote some great ballet music for his opera, Faust, I think he would accept this "marionette", too.
Still I did promise this month to offer both puppetry related information and continue the Keeping the Public in Public Domain series of stories.  Today is a very different type of story.  It's a biographical look beyond the sometimes dry summaries found at Wikipedia.  I enjoy telling biographical stories about people such as authors, artists, scientists, and, in this case, composers.  
A brief but lively such "story" can be found back in the early 1930s when Grosset and Dunlap offered various books in their Minute Sketches series.  The one page composer stories in Minute Sketches of Great Composers were widely enjoyed at the time.  The only opposing view I found comes from the Anton Bruckner; Symphony Versions Discography site. The site is compiled and maintained by John F. Berky, who faults the book for being " full of inaccuracies but it is memorable for its dismissive tone and the classic comment about Bruckner, 'shambling along the street in ill-fitting, dusty clothes.'  At least the sketch has some redeeming values."  I presume he's talking about Samuel Nisenson's illustrations.  

The entire book is available at Archive.org.  It was interesting the people who, unlike Berky, were devoted to the series, especially this book.  Dennis Simanaitis in his blog, Simanaitis Says, loves the Art Deco style of the series and its "micro-essays" of under 100 words. The Billie Sucher Blog on April 19, 2010 put the book in a "hope chest" for her adult son.  Wildflowers and Marbles.com puts the book at the top of a list of composer resources for home schooling across age and grade levels.  Back on April 9, 1938, although the book had been released back in 1932, it was recommended on page 7 of the intriguing pdf of the weekly Radio Guide.  It's a '30s forerunner of TV Guide and gives insight into the entertainment industry of the day and the many other programs people invited into their homes back then.  Google Scholar also cites the book 15 times with articles from its publication through last year.  Additionally I found the book still held in academic libraries.

By now I've taken quite a few minutes, but here's Gounod's Minute Sketch.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Motor City Puppet Blast Update

Promised as soon as I knew, I'd post when my workshop will be.  It's Saturday, July 26 at 3:30-4:30 p.m. in the Holley Room at the Detroit Institute of Arts.  That works for folks unable to get to the festival on Friday, but I hope you can come for all three days.  There will be lots of workshops -- even one on stop motion puppet construction which fits the creepy/cool entry I'll be posting here next weekend.

In the meantime go to the Great Lakes Puppetry Festival website for information including registration by or before June 25 to avoid $15 late fee.  Hope to see you there!

Here's a great site listing more information about each of the workshops at the Chicagoland Puppetry Guild site.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Andersen - The Snow Man - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

I did NOT like this story that much -- even if it does talk of Snow now that the weather is hot, BUT found another translation also in Public Domain a bit better AND a puppet production that expands it in a more entertaining way.  I know Hans Christian Andersen often wrote sad endings to his stories.  I don't mind those endings, they often are needed and do tend to regret Disneyfication of those stories.  The crucial problem is the audience needs a reason to identify with the story and its characters, even if we know it won't end well for them. 

Last week the issue of translation was mentioned and even included a bit of academic criticism of the 1872 translation by Mrs. Paull.  I was delighted to find the livelier 20th century translation by Jean Hersholt apparently is available.  This is based upon finding it online.  If this is incorrect I'll have to insert the 19th century version here, but it's a perfect example of why it's important to check several translations to get the flavor of a story.  My own copy's illustration isn't used since I'm uncertain if my 1948 illustrated edition of Hersholt's translations is still under copyright.

Stan the Lovesick Snowman with the Moose Mailman

Instead I will insert a picture from the production of Stan the Lovesick Snowman based on "The Snow Man" by Andersen by Center for Puppetry Arts.  The website of Stan the Lovesick Snowman does an outstanding job of explaining why they fell in love with Andersen's original story because of the "wide-eyed innocence" of the newly made snowman and how the family dog takes it upon herself to "explain the world to him - albeit from a decidedly canine point of view. Their relationship is like a slightly older child interpreting the world to a younger child. It is Stan’s innocence that gets him into trouble when he falls in love with a wood stove. There is a lot of humor in this potentially disastrous infatuation. Everyone but Stan can see that the stove is too 'hot' for him."


They also appreciated the wintry setting of the story, with its "dreamy snow-laden countryside complete with snowflakes, icicles, and cold starry nights without ever having to leave the relatively mild Georgia winter."
CPA is in Georgia and developed the program back in 2008. This show is still in their repertory, but has gone through a few changes. You can still find their original study guide for teachers along with school performance standards from kindergarten through 6th grade. You will notice that originally Stan was called Sam.  This was to avoid confusion with another "Sam the Snowman" in yet another show they offer.

Be sure to also look further down on the web page of Stan the Lovesick Snowman for information on the style of puppetry.  It gives a great explanation of this very professional use of rod puppetry, a puppetry form students can easily use in a simplified introduction to puppetry.  There is a teacher's eye view of rod puppetry in the study guide.

The CPA study guide includes biographical information on Andersen, including his own growing up producing puppet shows and a brief glimpse of some of the difficulties in his life.  There's also one of Andersen's many elaborate paper cuttings. The one in the guide doesn't specifically accompany the story, but does mention how Andersen would cut while telling his stories to children, only to end by unfolding it and showing how it fit the story's theme.  I don't know if he ever did one of this story, but such artistry certainly gives ordinary cut paper snowflakes quite a challenge!


Of course the guide includes an explanation of how the CPA production uses rod and shadow puppets.  It also mentions their show was expanded by adding a young snowwoman interested in the Lovesick Snowman, even as he's falling in love with the stove to make a "hilarious and heartwarming story perfect for the holiday season!"  There are hints that, just as in the Andersen tale, this "seems like a romance destined to fail."  The guide's bibliography and internet listings cover a range of topics: Andersen, snow,  snowflakes, snowmen, paper cutting, and more since it's intended to serve classes from kindergarten through sixth grade. 

















Stan and Alice the Dog


























Stan and the kids
Doesn't that leave you wanting to see how the Center for Puppetry Arts handled the story?  The guide gives us enough clues we can tell it ends with the Snow Man melting, but both their production and Hersholt's more modern translation show a story that shouldn't melt away...or at least we might have yet another look at it when winter returns.  Based upon the way they caught the story's appealing innocence and, yes, even their appreciation for winter -- (BRRRRRRR!  I'm enjoying its end right now here in Michigan!) -- I'm ready to revise my view of the story, it might even be a great way to counteract those rare Michigan days when it seems too hot.

I also hope you will turn to the start of this month when I featured the coming Great Lakes Regional Festival,

held at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The festival information -- as well as my own workshop which will give ideas for using puppets with storytelling, teaching, or other ways beyond the traditional puppet show -- can be found at "A-to-Z Puppets Are Easy" earlier this month.

Next week I'll return with yet another posting that's puppet-related.  Say that 10 times fast!

In the meantime . . .
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This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories. 

At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my normal monthly posting of a research project here.  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my monthly postings as often as I can manage it. 


There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I recommended it earlier and want to continue to do so.  Have fun discovering even more stories!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Andersen - Puppet-Show Man - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Hans Christian Andersen's theatre fascination began with an introduction using the puppet stage his father made.  At the risk of revealing too much from today's story, theatre directors will appreciate the Puppet-Show Man's choice of a suitcase full of puppets over actors.

Because the Great Lakes Regional Festival, Motor City Puppet Blast, is next month at the Detroit Institute of Arts, this month looks at PUPPETS!  To include stories in this blog's Keeping the Public in Public Domain, I'm convinced the best story on the topic is Andersen's "The Puppet-Show Man."  While children can follow the simpler outline of the story's basics, like so many of his writings there is much for adults in the work, including autobiographical elements.

Illustrator: A. W. Bayes, and Brothers Dalziel (Engravers)




















































































The stories depend on translation to bring the Danish author to English speaking audiences, whether reading or hearing the stories.  Amazon books have 101 pages of Andersen books.  My favorite interpretations are by the actress Eva Le Gallienne, but she only translated seven of his more than 150 stories.  Added to that, while Andersen died in 1875, the translations I must show here need to be in the Public Domain for more than just my usual desire to keep older stories alive.  As I mentioned nearly a year ago when featuring an Andersen story, I encourage you to compare many of them before telling something by him.

Just as I did then, I turn to the translation by Mrs. H.B. Paull because her work is safely within the Public Domain and covers the largest number of his stories.  At the same time even her first and middle name is debated, as Susannah Mary Paull or as Margaret Agnes Paull.  While her work interpreting both Andersen and Grimm is well known, she wrote much more that now is nearly as obscure as her name.  Modern scholarship examines her work in the book, Voices in Translation: Bridging Cultural Divides edited by Gunilla Anderman.  The chapter, "Little Snowdrop and the Magic Mirror: Two Approaches to Creating a 'Suitable' Translation in 19th Century England" by Niamh Chapelle and Jenny Williams contrasts Paull with the popular Victorian writer, Dinah Mulock, who was later known as Mrs. Craik.  The story of "Little Snowdrop and the Magic Mirror" is from the Brothers Grimm.  Chapelle and Williams analysis of the two translators faults Paull for being moralistic both in her choice of words and omissions.  They aren't looking at her work with Andersen, but  still would probably have a similar opinion.

Unfortunately "Puppet-Show Man" is not one of Andersen's better known works with a large number of versions to compare.  When I did look at others, the differences felt minor.
Andersen's statue in Central Park
Would Andersen as a writer agree?  Because so many of his fairy tales began orally, I would like to think when I tell them he would understand.  After all, he said (essentially the same in all translations) through his Puppet-Show Man: "I can arrange my pieces just as I please. I choose out of every comedy what I like best, and no one is offended. Plays that are neglected now-a-days by the great public were ran after thirty years ago, and listened to till the tears ran down the cheeks of the audience. These are the pieces I bring forward. I place them before the little ones, who cry over them as papa and mamma used to cry thirty years ago. But I make them shorter, for the youngsters don’t like long speeches; and if they have anything mournful, they like it to be over quickly.”

By the way, blogs place the most recent article first, but all this month, if you haven't yet read the start of this month my article "A to Z, Puppets Are Easy", which began this month, be sure to catch it.
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This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories. 

At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my normal monthly posting of a research project here.  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my monthly postings as often as I can manage it.