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Thursday, August 16, 2018

VSA Michigan soon to become ...?

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Not everything I do is publicly posted.  My classroom work is a perfect example and, when it's through VSA Michigan. it's even more private as I work with students in special education classrooms or occasionally mainstreamed classes.  Their award-winning organization has been around since 1977 and I recommend them often.  Now I can't even know what name to tell people about this wonderful organization.  Their name is changing, but not their focus.

In 2019, after being an affiliate of the international network of the VSA and Accessibility Department of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, VSA Michigan now faces a new and exciting challenge of being an independent non-profit organization-- and the need to change its current name. 

Whatever their name, my storytelling and theatre work with them is only one of the many arts disciplines they offer to classrooms and community programs for work with  children and adults with disabilities.  For example, I helped young adults with autism put together and perform a puppet show of Snow White and the Dwarves for their school district's early childhood programs.  They may have learned a bit about theatre, but I learned a bunch, too, from them. 

Beyond that I worked as a storyteller in residence over a semester at two locations in Genesee County at five classes with students, culminating in a Show and Share.  Additionally Flint's Institute of Arts hosted Project Choice with several of us as teaching artists involving school groups from the Genesee ISD.  That county is part of 10 Affiliate and Partner organizations throughout the state with programs conducted annually reaching more than 25,000 individuals annually.  

When I mention their focus, it's upon ability, not disability, and upon creativity and achievement.  With some students non-verbal and possibly with severe movement impairments, it's been challenging as I worked for audience involvement.  When I say challenging, I'm still learning and seeking to learn even more because I want to bring stories that enrich the student's lives, or as VSA Michigan says:
•Every person deserves access to appropriate learning experiences in the arts.
•The arts promote understanding and communication for everyone.
•The arts are more than a product, they are a process – it’s the journey that counts.
•The arts in their many forms enhance a person’s humanity.

When I tell people about their work, I find myself recommending people get in touch with them to see about bringing their arts education to yet another community.  Their educational work is well known, but community arts and cultural organization also can benefit from their expertise in aiding accessibility.  I still will recommend them, but what will the name be?  

At the same time their training for teaching artists, educators, college students, and community arts education providers continues with their annual Community of Progress Workshop.  It runs from August 19 to 21.  (This is why I'm posting this earlier than my usual Saturday schedule.  It's last minute, but not too late to get involved.  If this sounds like you, too -- go to the organization's link at the beginning of this article).  I'm looking forward to its emphasis on learning strategies for teaching students on the autism spectrum and with  behavioral challenges. This isn't the first of these sessions I've attended and know it will give practical ideas to learn inclusive strategies to create a successful environment in the classroom and for teaching the arts to differentiated learners.  I closed out the past school year craving even more training and will travel to the Workshop knowing there will be tons to absorb.  I'm told it uses the principles of Universal Design for Learning while minimizing behavioral problems.  (Hmmm, sounds like that enhances all work or personal interaction.)  The workshop is up north at Higgins Lake near Roscommon and expect to be offline, so the second half of next week will mean playing "catch up."  

I expect next week's article will be a posting of Keeping the Public in Public Domain prepared this week.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Hello Girls documentary

Marine City this weekend remembers its own Oleda Joure Christides and her fellow Hello Girls of World War I with the Jim Theres documentary.  The showings are at the intimate Mariner Theater to benefit the Marine City Pride and Heritage Museum with the Friday premier and Saturday showing both sold out, so a Sunday at 4 p.m. showing has been added.

I'm not sure if he is wanting to sell it online, so I will only give links to some of the official trailers.  The daughters of Oleda have both been a help when I was preparing my program.  This includes Oleda's older daughter, Helen Richard, as well as the author of the book The Hello Girls, Elizabeth Cobbs, who also produced the film.  In addition I enjoyed seeing my storytelling colleague, Ellouise Schoettler, who began guiding people in the Washington  to the story of the Hello Girls before I ever heard of them.  Another trailer,, has younger daughter, Michelle Christides, sitting on a bench as she was interviewed outside General Pershing's headquarters at Chaumont.  Added to that, here is the only known audio interview of a Hello Girl, yes, Oleda, .

By the way, the film ends with several women at the Women's Memorial at Arlington Cemetery reading the World War I poem by Frances A. Johnson called "To the Telephone Girl"
World War I Poster Collection (MSS WW1Posters), Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.
From the cratered Hells of No-Man's Land
To the switchboard where you sit,
There are none who serve so loyally,
We know that you do your "bit."
For the world's bound round with a copper wire
With you on the outer end,
Each flashing light that you plug in the night
A message of hope you send.

You sit all alone at a magic loom
And weave from out of the air
The words of faith, of home, of love,
That go to our boys "out there."
For the war's not won with bursting shells,
Shrapnel or cannon alone,
You're doing your part with all your heart,
Little girl of the telephone.


The poem and poster show a bit of the way the Hello Girls were recognized at the time by the general public.  In the film, Helen includes a bit of the Christmas gift of a booklet of thank yous from the officers and men they served.

The story of our country's first female soldiers and their 60 year fight for veteran's recognition will be celebrated in Marine City.  This month I also have had several requests for my reenactment.  I especially appreciate the support from Helen, who has seen it, as well as from so many others here in Michigan.  After the centennial celebrating ends, I hope to keep alive the story of Oleda and the other Hello Girls.  See you next week in East Tawas!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Campbell - various Scottish Highland fox tales/tails - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

This is early because I want anybody local enough to know about the 169th St. Andrews Society of Detroit Highland Games August 4 in  Livonia when North Oakland County Storytellers (NOCS) welcomes all to the Wee Bairns area of the annual Highland Games for stories of Scottish heritage.

Contact Carolyn Graves, 248-264-6752 for more information or go to the Wee Bairns section of the Highland Games information at…/kids-corner/ . The event is at 20501 Newburgh Rd. at Greenmead Historical Park. Advance Games tickets are $15. Games tickets purchased at the gate are $20. Children 12 and under are admitted free.

The Wee Bairns area is the spot for an understanding of Scottish heritage while having fun and that definitely includes storytelling.

Stories are tailored to the audiences that drift through.  I love telling some I've posted here in the past.  I also enjoy the following short fox tales as they can fit the short attention span often part of drifting from activity to activity at a festival.  They also happen to be about a fascinating animal...the fox! While they come from John Francis Campbell's Popular Tales of the West Highlands, Sir George Douglas included them in his well known standard anthology, Scottish Folk & Fairy Tales.

I will interrupt a bit here to make a few comments related to my telling them.

While it's great to see how intelligent a fox is, it's also fun to see them outwitted.  This names the fox as Rory and gives the reason for the Gaelic name.  Because I can't manage Gaelic, I omit that and just call him a fox.
The next one has been also told with the fox using a stick, which is how I tell it instead of wool. 
Maybe it's my own Clan Stirling roots, but I do love the Scottish bagpipes . . . and a good thing, too, because they seem to be everywhere at the festival.
The story about the Wrens for city listeners benefits from a demonstration and very brief explanation of threshing and then tailoring it to how birds do it.
I do not tell the story after it, "The Fox and the Cock", for several reasons.  I can't manage the Scots Gaelic pronunciation.  I'm also inclined to substitute "rooster" to avoid snickering whenever I can.  In this case, the double meaning is also part of the story and "is nae for the Wee Bairns."
I've never seen a Scottish wolf nor his tail, but will make this tale specific to a specific wolf and how his tail can't compare with that of a fox.  Of course I saw the ending coming and it's a story that has traveled the world, usually with a bear.  It is used to show how the Vikings came to North America and their story of "Why the Bear Has a Stumpy Tail" shows their contact with our Native people.  You have the story for my contact with you from last year whether you make the festival or not. 

In the meantime may you have many tales, especially those of your own cultural heritage, to share for that's the purpose of Public Domain.
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 regular posting of a research project here.  (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.)  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other postings as often as I can manage it.
Other Public Domain story resources I recommend-
  • There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I have long recommended it and continue to do so.  He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key.
  • You may have noticed I'm no longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking specific types of stories.  There's another site, FairyTalez claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales, folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.

    Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"
The email list for storytellers, Storytell, discussed Online Story Sources and came up with these additional suggestions:            
         - David K. Brown -
         - Richard Martin -
         - Spirit of Trees -
         - Story-Lovers - is now only accessible through the Wayback Machine, described below, but Jackie Baldwin's wonderful site lives on there, fully searchable manually (the Google search doesn't work), at .  It's not easy, but go to snapshot for October 22 2016  and you can click on SOS: Searching Out Stories to scroll down through the many story topics and click on the story topic that interests you.
       - World of Tales - 
You're going to find many of the links on these sites have gone down, BUT go to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to find some of these old links.  Tim's site, for example, is so huge probably updating it would be a full-time job.  In the case of Story-Lovers, it's great that Jackie Baldwin set it up to stay online as long as it did after she could no longer maintain it.  Possibly searches maintained it.  Unfortunately Storytell list member, Papa Joe is on both Tim Sheppard's site and Story-Lovers, but he no longer maintains his old Papa Joe's Traveling Storytelling Show website and his Library (something you want to see!) is now only on the Wayback Machine.  It took some patience working back through claims of snapshots but finally in December of 2006 it appears!
    Somebody as of this writing whose stories can still be found by his website is the late Chuck Larkin -  I prefer to list these sites by their complete address so they can be found by the Wayback Machine, a.k.a., when that becomes the only way to find them.
You can see why I recommend these to you. Have fun discovering even more stories!