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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Past Is Present Is Future

DRAT!  Did an Edit and forgot to click Publish again.  Have been going in too many directions at one time, this just tells about the storytelling ones.

Sometimes this newspaper masthead seems so appropriate.  Times Past, Present, and Future.
For the Times Past, lately I've been busy with both my two very real historical personas, Liberetta Lerich Green and Oleda Joure Christides.  Liberetta grew up on an Underground Railroad Station in nearby Shelby Township, she followed the progress of her brothers in Michigan's "Fighting Fifth" Infantry in the Civil War, and then raised her own family of six interesting children.  Oleda, from Marine City was a "Hello Girl", one of the bilingual phone operators in World War I.  In my "spare time" I've enjoyed being part of the musical, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which is set in 1895 with a Music Hall troupe and involves some improvisation with the audience, including letting them select murderer, detective, and final lovers.

The Times Present has been more aggravating.  Among the most difficult is my transitioning to a new personal computer and trying to retrieve all my backup.  I had to accept the lifespan of my old computer had either ended or deserved to go.  Now I'm trying to figure out how to get everything I had up and again running, hopefully without having to buy even more!

I'm also looking forward to removing the cast from my wrist and arm on March third.

The Times Future has incorporated all of this and even more.  Back on January 26 I did a Liberetta program for Oxford Public Library.  In the process, I was videotaped by Oxford Community Television and was favorably impressed.  In the meantime I did yet another videotaping with Shelby TV, while offering Liberetta's story at the Shelby Township Library.  This was arranged before I knew what would happen in Oxford.  My hope was to document and archive the history of this family for the township, especially the Shelby Township Historical Committee and the Lerich and Green descendants.  The support from the Historical Committee over the years has been the start of so much of my research, beginning with her own oral history, The Beacon Tree, which can be found on the Historical Committee's website.  As a result the Shelby program will be expanded beyond the library program.

Oxford Community Television, however, decided Women's History Month in March would welcome the story of the "Hello Girls" and Oleda.  I definitely agree.  These women fought for 60 years to gain finally recognition as veterans.  They were addressed as "soldier"; warned repeatedly of being subject to Court Martial; their mail, leave, and medical care all came from the military (although, unlike the soldiers also in the army, they were not given typhoid shots, so Hillsdale operator, Cora Bartlett is buried "Over There" because she died of typhoid); one of their switchboards was partially destroyed by German fire earning their supervisor, Grace Banker, the Distinguished Service medal and the operators with her certificates.  Yet when they returned they were denied veterans status.  It wasn't until the 1970s those few still alive received their honorable discharges and promised Victory Medals.
I look forward to offering the video OCTV taped this past week.  Next month is March, Women's History Month, and I plan to publish each week articles and photos from Bell Telephone News from the time before and after their service, showing the operators of Michigan and Illinois.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Storytelling no matter what happens!?!

The U.S.Postal Service"s unofficial creed used to be "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."  The motto is even inscribed on New York's James Farley Post Office, but it has no official status.  I live on a rural dirt road and have noticed a more realistic attitude has been used lately.  The mail still gets through, but sometimes is delayed.

Similarly scheduled programs sometimes need evaluation.  Weather can mean rescheduling or even cancellation.  Audience safety and comfort come first.  Similarly health of the storyteller is a factor.  Can the scheduled program be up to the expectations of the venue?  Years ago I canceled programs to face cancer treatments.  Looking back I believe it was the right decision as my energy level was a major factor.  If the venue had preferred to pursue the contracted program, however, I would still have done it.  Such decisions need to be made mutually.

As "Hello Girl", Oldea Joure Christides
I am currently tapping out this blog one-armed while my arm is in a bright shocking pink cast for a broken wrist.  With historical storytelling programs and a role in a musical also set in a historical time when my shocking pink cast doesn't match I wondered: What to do?  First various sleeves were checked.  YES! My arm can squeeze in -- the 1917 lace dress used in my program as Liberetta Lerich Green was tight, while my World War I uniform sleeves are roomy, and a white cutoff sock helps look like an old-time cast onstage for the musical.  Both types of historical storytelling programs were also able to use a sling for audiences close to the teller, concealing it.  Then comes the question of energy.  I'm a high-energy performer.  Could the programs still work?  Thankfully almost everything else in my life could be set aside.  Audiences have also said YES!

Here are photos from last Saturday in Bay City at the 84th State Conference of the Michigan Society Children of the American Revolution showing how it went.

This is MSCAR president, Madden Brady, who has made World War I and restoration of Bay City "Doughboy" statue his focus.

A few more members of the audience
Ovelia Taylor

It was a great opportunity to spread the word about this too often overlooked part of our history as we near the centennial of the U.S entering the war.  Adults there also agreed this is an important story in Women's History as these women battled for 60 years to gain recognition as veterans.  It was a pleasure to bring the program to them.

Now to survive The Mystery of Edwin Drood -- February 17 with additional shows on February 18, 19, 24, 25 & 26, 2017 at Central United Methodist Church. Friday and Saturday shows start at 7:30 p.m. Sundays at 4 p.m. 
Drood Ensemble ...note that wrist

and, while I'm battling feeling overwhelmed, I confess I just couldn't resist an excellent script, a director with whom I have wonderful past theatre experience, and fellow actors I value.

The story of this storyteller continues, fortunately March 3 the cast on my arm is scheduled for removal.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Thorne-Thomsen - East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Facebook would call this a Status Update, but this week 2 storytelling programs and the start of a workshop series I sometimes lead + 2 rehearsals for the musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood (opening next week!) coupled with the energy drain from my broken wrist in a cast = me feeling definitely say nothing of the way it slows me up!  I used to put this sign behind my nameplate when working as a librarian: Please Lord...Grant Me Patience, BUT HURRY!

That little sign is so ME.

In the meantime I need to adjust plans and today's post is that adjustment.  Not only did the influential storyteller, Gudrun Thorne-Thomsen, make today's story the title of her great littl book, but it's the title of 3 others in my library:

Normally I'd insert the illustrations from those, but only the Nielsen ones are in Public Domain and frankly it's more than I am up to at present.  I do recommend looking up these and even more versions of the story.  Today let's see why this story has caught the imagination of so many illustrators -- check Amazon using both "o'" and "of" for its title and you'll see what I mean.  If you don't look back at the earlier article on today's author/translator, Thorne-Thomsen, know that the story opens with an illustration by Frederick Richardson, whose colorful work appears throughout the book.

Can't you just picture that circle of stone trolls?!  My third book bearing this title doesn't name the translator, in fact the Kay Nielsen book doesn't say if he translated his either, but he was Danish, so it's probable.  What the third book, part of the Macmillan Classics series, offers beyond Tom Vroman's illustrations is an afterword by Clifton Fadiman who notes the way folktales travel, so that you may notice its similarity to other tales -- this one manages to put together several, doesn't it? -- yet the tale has a flavor all its own.  Fadiman points to that white bear and those trolls in talking about the stories collected by Asbjornsen and Moe and their Norwegian flavor.

 Thorne-Thomsen does an excellent job of making the story tellable.  About the only change for today's audiences would be her frequent use of the word "thither",  but then again that may be a bit of flavoring you may enjoy.  It's all rather like seasoning some cooking isn't it?
Here's my closing for days when I have a story in Keeping the Public in 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!"
You can see why I recommend these to you. Have fun discovering even more stories!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Energy...Cutting Back?

Bad memory?  Doing too much?

Dunno, but this is same wrist broken a year ago & am exhausted!  Last year taught sign language class left-handed...great mental exercise switching from dominant hand.  Feel more beaten up than a few years ago in chemo!  At least my hair stays, but needs help.

Am typing strictly left-handed in case my overly-sensitive nerves under cast need rest.  I know it affects my sleep.

Being a high-energy person this is maddening.  Can force enough out to do storytelling gigs without it hindering performance, but beyond that?  I'm also 2 weeks from an admittedly minor, but fun, role in The Mystery of Edwin Drood.  Have looked forward to all the improvisation the show involves.  It's a musical supposedly performed by a ragtag group called the Music Hall Royale in 1895.  The show within the show, after improvising with the audience and an opening song, begins with this explanation:
 and there's other opportunities throughout the show for the performers to let their other selves pop out...complete with dialects.  For my part I have chosen to be the only Scot among all those Brits. . .

Scotland Forever! At Waterloo 200 website find this explanation about the painting:

This wonderful painting depicts the 2nd (Royal North British) Regiment of Dragoons, a British cavalry regiment later known as the ‘Scots Greys’, at full charge during the Battle of Waterloo. It was not only painted by a woman, which was rare enough among battlefield artists of the 19th century, but by a woman who had never witnessed a battle.

Lois:  There's more, so I hope you visit the Waterloo site and also Wikipedia's article about Scotland_Forever!

This important painting of the Waterloo battle was made in 1881, so this Scottish rallying cry seems apt for my character.   The topic of being a British Subject, but not English, is also cause for song in the show.  

Can you tell I really want to do this?  I even have a story ready about how my arm got in a cast.

What to do?

I once looked back at those months while in chemo and decided I was right to cancel gigs because my energy level was definitely NOT my normal.  Unfortunately -- or maybe fortunately for my own craving activity -- February has storytelling gigs, some other work, and the show is the final 2 weekends in February.  It's not possible to cancel or find replacements this close to their dates.  I am going to rest this arm.  Having my fingers outside the cast has let me try to do too much.  Hopefully I only have to wear it for 1 week further in March and not until mid-March.

It's a matter of prioritizing.  Singers often must rest their voices.  Theatre origins and training long ago taught me: Your body is your instrument, so take care of it.  

I'm trying, but as my family knows, the reply to that is: Yes, you're very trying!