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...And The Rockets Red Glare ... right on cue

Olstoryteller Bits and Pieces



Friday, July 8, 2011

"... And the Rockets Red Glare ..." right on cue.

My "gorilla storytelling" continues every Friday night at Little Man Ice cream in the lower highlands of north west Denver. Each performance continues to offer new challenges.  The usual challenges are; performing outside, in the dark, trying to get and hold the attention of the patrons in line and those already seated.  They are there for the best ice cream in town. The nightly entertainment is incidental. Most are unaware that there is a storyteller performing here on a regular basis. Although the regulars know that Little Man offers something in the way of entertainment every night of the week during the summer. "The American Irish Seanachi"  is Friday night's flavor of the week. It seems these daunting challenges are never enough.  Ah, no, the storytelling-challenge-gods are always throwing down new and more demanding ones, like Zeus pitching lightening bolts through a soft, unsuspecting summer night.  This past Friday, July 3rd. was hardly the exception.

Last Wednesday, on my own dime,   I went up to Denver and sussed out the possibilities of incorporating Little Man's speaker system with my own. Now I've learned the hard lesson of never trusting any venues equipment but my own. But  I wanted to reach more folks in the long lines that form down 30th and behind this crazy venue. Well, I measured plotted it all out and purchased an additional 25 feet of speaker cable for Friday's show. I also pushed back the starting time.  Over this past month it became obvious that there were more adults waiting in line after nine than there were children. 

I arrived on Friday, excited be able to be heard far and wide with three speakers only to find thatsomeone had pinched the 10 foot speaker cord! The very one I was intending to couple with my own that would make three speakers possible. Okay. Was a nice idea anyway.  Show must go on and, because of starting later there were kids waiting for me to begin.  Well, I  got set up, pulled the youngsters in with my "Rickity-Tickity-Man," did my shorter kids program and sure enough, the kid population dwindled enough by 8:45 so that I could take a little brake. I walked the line and gathered  material from the growing line of patrons to use in my improv bit.  By now it's dark and I am cooking.  The improv went well, as did the short-short stories. There's that buzz you get when you can feel you are connecting. I was balancing new material with older material, having forgotten all  about the technical problems and I am taking chances telling more mature, personal stories.  I am right at the punch line of one of these stories when ... no, my main speaker didn't blow out, but there was an explosion.

Little Man, as I think I've mentioned before, looks down over Denver.  Just to the left of this fantastic view is Coors Field, home of our Colorado Rockies.  There,  every Fourth of July weekend, beginning on Friday night, they have a fabulous fire works show which this particular Friday night began just as I hit a "quiet" storie's punch line. Knowing there was no way to compete with this distraction, I went to my "plan b", which until that moment I didn't even realize I had.

I turned up the i Pod music I incorporate (one of the Irish jigs I use for The Rickity-Tickity-Man's dance) and let the folks enjoy both, what was in front of them and the star-spangeled explosions behind me. This went on for a good fifteen, twenty minutes. When the last of the rocket's red glare faded from the night sky, I returned to the mic. "I hope you enjoyed our extra added attraction at no extra charge." I said. "I was happy to put it together for you lovely people, though it did take me all week to do so.  Now this next story..." 

This little bit of working with what the storytelling-challenge-gods had thrown at me served me well.  No one felt poorly for the upstaging of The American Irish Seanachi by the celebration of America's birthday.  Every one had enjoyed the fire works and were now more than happy to give their attention to the storyteller. Who seems to invite adversity at every turn.  Proving to me once again that if you play it safe, you'll not be able to play it as it lays.

Hope to see you this Friday at Little Man, and/ or on Saturday, July 9th. at the Colorado Irish Festival. I'll be appearing at the Cultural Events center there at4:30.  Hopefully with the perfect sound system and no fireworks.

'Til next time  ... see you on down the road ... may it rise up to meet you.  Now go out and kiss somebody.
Peace and Grace, Den

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Best Kind of Payday

Yesterday I had the kind of payday that reminds me of one of the reasons I tell stories.  I had a library gig. How could that be,  you might well ask yourself, when libraries have no money.  Same as schools and museums, and the other tried and true venues providing for the employment of storytellers.  Well, it happened like this.

They had requested a program  around immigration that would inspire the community to investigate and use all the library system has to offer.

 The audience (other than the librarians and a school district representative) consisted entirely of immigrants.  They ranged in age from two to sixty-two. Only about half spoke english.  Some came from  Mexico and Guatemala and a few from Ethiopia.

I adapted some chapters from my young adult novel, "MIDNIGHT and the MAGICAL PRAIRE SCHOONER" for telling, keeping two things in mind" K.I.S.S. and bring lots of props for non-verbal communication.  This planning really paid off.  I was able to keep all but the youngest engaged; the youngest being that two year old. But then you tell me who can keep a two year old engaged when they want a snack and a nap?

 As every storyteller knows there are three essentials to telling a story. Story is supported by the teller and the listener.   You really need all three. But when you consider that perhaps only a third to a half of your story is being understood ... well that's when the props come in handy.

I dusted off my model prairie schooner, packed up my gig bag ... kerosene lamp, talking stick and of course the Rickity-Tickity-Man. Brought the small amp and ipod music to accompany the Rickity-Tickity -Man and went to work looking for engagement.  And I found it!

"The Rickity-Tickity-Man"
We all know that we never tell a story exactly the same way twice.  We also need to be open to the vibe of the moment. Before I knew it my tale addressed issues every immigrant has had to face coming to this country. I harkened back to what I know best abut the immigrant experience; the plight of the Irish coming to America.  Speaking from the heart, making eye-to-eye contact, and letting the story go where it would, I suddenly felt that enviable moment every story teller lives for.  That being when the story takes on a life of it's own.  When something rather magical happens that takes us-- teller and listener-- to a much higher place than anticipated. Most definitely to a higher place than the teller had planned for.

In the end, I felt I had not only empathized,  entertained, and hopefully inspired my listeners, but made a deeper connection.  The best kind of communication connection. From heart to heart. And if that doesn't adequately explain my "payday," well there was the sale of my book to the library. The promise for a return engagement. And  a new program to add to my repertoire. Prior to this experience, I didn't have an  "immigrant experience" in my program listings.  I do now thanks to MLK library and their wonderful committed staff.  And for this Olstoryteller, yesterday's show was a high beyond any monetary or physical experience.

And that's just one of the reasons I tell stories.

'Til next time  ... see you on down the road ... may it rise up to meet you.  Now go out and kiss somebody.
Peace and Grace, Den

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What, Am I Out Of My Mind?

As if storytelling outdoors and beginning a new blog isn't challenge enough,  I've decided to further borrow trouble by kicking off something I call "Gorilla Telling."  I know, you can't tell a gorilla anything.

I am pretty sure there must be at least one other crazy person out there doing something very similar, if so please feel free to share your experiences, advice and the name of your therapist. Actually, it might just be a another form of busking.

Briefly, "Gorilla Telling" is where I come to a venue armed with a bunch short stories, big "what-if's", and "imagine that." The tools of  improvisation and storytelling. And descend on unsuspecting patrons waiting in line at one of our local venues.  This particular establishment, Little Man ice cream,  is open to just about anything, and provides a different kind of entertainment every night during the summer.  I am their first storyteller.  The Friday night flavor of the week, if you will. They found me thanks to my listing in NSN.  Yea NSN!
We are hoping for a win-win.  They are giving me two hours every Friday night, pretty much carte blanche.  So, in exchange for "working the line" and performing two 30 min. shows. I get a chance to keep up my chops as I upgrade my material.  I am forced to come up with new and very short material. By the by, if you have a good resources for short-short stories you'd like to share, I could use them. I get to sell my book-- MIDNIGHT and the MAGICAL PRAIRIE SCHOONER-- meet new people and new challenges (never had to compete with a slide and  ice cream -hyped four-year olds.)  They in turn get bragging rights for being the only establishment in this up and coming area with "GORILA STORYTELLING." 
With just a few moments to hook them, I single out a person or persons and give then a  short story and or a little improv, whatever it takes to get them to stick around after they get their cone  and listen to my longer Tall Tales, Personal Stories, Irish folk tales etc.  I need a lot of stories as I never know what age range will make-up the majority of the audience.  Last week the adults outnumbered the kids. We are not in set venue mode anymore, Toto.  The rushing waters can be scary but, so far, I am enjoying riding the rapids!
So, if you are in Denver on a Friday night this summer, come on by Little Man ice cream, for a scoop and a story. 'Til then ... see you on down the road ... may it rise up to meet you, and until next time ... go out and kiss somebody.
Peace and Grace, Den

PROFILE- "who is this guy?"

Well, then, there now fellow cyber travelers, welcome to my first posting.  Hope you find it and then find it an enjoyable to read.  I reckon that first things being, well, first, I ought to introduce myself and tell you a little about myself.  This may prove to be the most difficult part, as I do not like talking about myself. I prefer telling fictional stories about others. 

I am a writer/spoken word artist. I prefer that moniker to "storyteller" as that particular distinction carries with it a lot of misconceptions.  You tell folks you're a storyteller and the first thing that comes to mind is someone reading fairy tales to a circle of kids in the school library.  There is a lot more to it than that limited image.  But then if you follow my storytelling podcast ( or that of other spoken word artists, you know and appreciate that. However, reckon here,  I'll use the moniker storyteller for convenience purposes. 

As for the particulars: I've been a professional storyteller since 1997. I've told stories in a number of diverse venues, from classroom to boardroom, festivals to senior homes and art festivals. Some of my clients include: Mental Health Corporation of Denver, KRFC radio, The Rocky Mountain Storyteller’s Conference, and the Taos Storytelling Circle. And so forth and so on. I have developed a program for people with developmental disabilities; one hour, one story. 

Prior to going into storytelling full time I fulfilled a portion of my responsibility to humankind by working in the filed of  Human Services.  My clients were people with brain injuries and/or developmental disabilities.  Areas of expertise included: working with duel diagnoses—deaf and developmentally delayed; deaf-blind; and the non –verbal. 

While the informed thinking is that a storyteller must find his/her niche, I can't help myself.  My website will tell you that I have three storytelling personas; The American Irish Seanachi, The Ol'Storyteller and Everyman (the narrator) for stories from "Oscar & Flo's Chit-Chat-Cafe." And as much as I like telling western stories, tall tales and the like, and love pullin' on the brogue for my tales from Ireland, I also like doing the occasional fairy or folk tale.  And I love dearly the improvisational story. Give me a topic and I will tell you a tale.This being my blog baptism, I am going to wrap things up by saying that this is what you can expect from my blog.

I'll be letting you know where I am performing and what ... maybe.  Oft times I don't know until I see the audience and get the vibe as to exactly which story I'll pull out.  I will also be informing you of new postings on Facebook, YouTube and on my podcast. I might ask for feed back.  And I might even throw in a story now and again.  Don't know yet.  If the interest is there we can have story discussions.  In short, you can expect a grab-bag of, well,  bits and pieces from ... The Ol' Storyteller
So,  until next time, we'll see you on down the road-- may it rise up to meet you-- but for now ... go out and kiss someone.
Peace and Grace, Den

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