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Greetings from the Suncoast of Florida!


While much of the country has been buried under a blanket of snow and ice for much of the past month, we for the most part have been enjoying much warmer temperatures. We took advantage of the climate and the ecosystem by hiking and camping in the Everglades, including a “slough slog”, wading (under the guidance of a couple of park rangers) in knee-deep water through terrain that few people explore. We also took a canoe excursion to one of thousands of little islands just off the coast, setting up a tent and camping overnight on the beach; on the return trip we saw, sporting among the many clumps of mangroves, a group of dolphins. We also took a brief canoe trip on Silver River, where underwater scenes from the old Tarzan films were shot. (View Everglades Video on YouTube)

During the month of January, we performed at the North Shore Library in Miami Beach, which was indeed located right on the beach, so we were able to enjoy some sand and surf afterward. While in Orlando, we had an outing that many consider obligatory: a day at Walt Disney World. But we went this time only because we received complimentary tickets after volunteering for a day at the Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge in Orlando, a facility that rehabilitates injured, abandoned and confiscated animals. (Among other things, we cleaned the cage of a cougar that had been kept at the center since it was a cub, after being rescued from a black market.) This was part of a temporary program that Disney recently instituted to reward volunteerism with free admission to its parks. We enjoyed the experience so much that we volunteered for another day (without receiving more free tickets) at the Feeding South Florida food bank in Miami.

And now we're heading north, hoping to catch a few snowflakes on our eyelashes as we prepare for performances in Alabama, Mississippi and New Mexico.

Act!vatedly Yours,

Dennis and Kimberly Goza

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February Fairies

February is a time for valentines, groundhogs and presidents, of course. But did you know it's also the time for fairies? Feb. 26 is Tell A Fairy Tale Day, and Feb. 28 is National Tooth Fairy Day (sometimes also observed on Aug. 22). And what would childhood be without fairy tales? And where would a child's budget be without the tooth fairy?

The word fairy comes from the Latin fata, meaning one of the personified Fates. Thus, fairies are sometimes, as in Sleeping Beauty, associated with spinning yarn, just as the Fates spun, measured and cut the “thread of life”. (The Spanish word hada derives from the same source.) From there the word came to designate a more general class of spirit before evolving into what we now imagine when we see a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Although the modern image of the fairy is a wee little winged creature, generally feminine (thanks in large part to the popularity of Tinkerbell), in olden days, a fairy could be almost any kind of spirit of any size or gender. Among some cultures, they were identified simply as spirits of the deceased, and might be malevolent as opposed to the generally benign if mischievous nature of fairies we all know and love. They were sometimes viewed as representing the elements or natural forces; to this day, many folklorists say that each fairy or type of fairy is associated with a plant. Fairy magic, perhaps, is a sort of supernatural fertilizer.

During the Victorian era, in accordance with more genteel sensibilities, artists began giving the fairies a kinder, gentler makeover with the addition of wings, in accordance with the traditional concept of angels. And that image has stuck ever since.

But for all their cherubic appearance, the wee folk have been rumored over the ages to have been responsible for their share of malice; whenever unexplained misfortune occurred and there were no oddball characters around to accuse of being witches, fairies generally trooped in to take up the slack. Thus, their tiny shoulders have shouldered the blame for such diverse offenses as tuberculosis (“consumption”) and stray or dead livestock. And oh yes, we mustn't forget their annoying practice of stealing human children and leaving fairy children (“changelings”) behind in their places.

As a rule, however, these pint-size creatures are content to limit themselves to pint-size misdeeds, usually of merely irritating rather than tragic or traumatizing scale. They love to rearrange and conceal things, for example, and to tie a sleeping person's hair into “elf-locks” (perhaps it's another act of mischief that they shift the credit to elves). And that milk that sours prematurely just might have had a fairy finger stuck into it, in which case you wouldn't have wanted to drink it anyway.

But not to worry, you're not helpless against fairy enchantment. Iron repels them the way garlic does vampires. So does bread. No, wait: in some cases, bread is actually left out to reward them for doing our chores for us. That's right, fairies can be helpful as well as hurtful. Maybe it depends on which side of the leaf they get up on. One thing's pretty certain: reports consistently indicate that if you learn a fairy's name, then he or she will be compelled to do your bidding. Yes, Oberon, I know you're a king, but my dishes still need to be washed! (Note: if you want a fairy to stick around, don't give it an article of clothing. That's been known to drive them away in some cases.)

Nobody knows when or where the tooth fairy in particular was born, but in the U.S., she is at least a century old. She certainly was an established tradition by 1927, when a children's play called “The Tooth Fairy” premiered. It is possible that she is the offspring of several cultures that melded in the great American crucible. From Europe came the practice of burying baby teeth in the yard to bring good fortune – perhaps they were seen as symbolic of youth, which people hoped would mature into fruitful adulthood. From Asia came the ritual of placing upper teeth in the attic and lower teeth under the floor. And in South America, there was a custom of giving children a “worry doll”, which would be placed under their pillow to do their worrying for them at night so they could sleep better. Such a doll may have suggested the form of the fairy – though some cultures instead boast a tooth mouse, probably because the teeth of rodents are very strong, hopefully like the adult teeth that will grow in. If we were children, however, we think we would find it a bit creepy to think about a rat removing a tooth from beneath our pillow while we slept, no matter how much cash it might leave in return.

With such a long history, it's only natural that fairies should also have a lengthy tradition in literature. People often use the terms “fairy tale” and “folktale” interchangeably, and many times they coincide. But there is a difference. As we always point out during our performances, a genuine folktale is a story of anonymous origin that has been preserved primarily by oral tradition. A fairy tale, on the other hand, which may or may not be a folktale, is a story that involves supernatural beings. (That's the minimum requirement, and there may be others, depending on whom you ask.)

The earliest known written fairy tales, dating back to ancient Egypt, are over 3000 years old. But the term fairy tale was coined in the Seventeenth Century by the French writer Madame d'Aulnoy.

Part of the literary salon movement known as preciasite (preciousness) that wrote what would now be called romance novels (if not soap operas), Madame d'Aulnoy published a series of fantasy stories under the title Les Contes des Fees (tales of fairies). A few years later the genre was greatly popularized by another French author, Charles Perrault, with his Mother Goose tales, including such classics as Puss in Boots and Cinderella.

About a century later, the Romantic Movement was born, and with its emphasis on supernatural elements, the literature of the next 50 years or so brought fairies and their lore to an even wider public – thanks to Sir Walter Scott among others. Then a generation or so later, along came The Brothers Grimm, who collected folk tales that had appeared in many countries. But the Grimms were particularly interested in those that enjoyed favor in their own Germany. And they decided that fairies just weren't Teutonic enough, so they went through all the stories and replaced them with spirits, witches, and other assorted cast members. Scotsman Andrew Lang, however, made certain that fairies would continue to enjoy a good reputation when he published the Fairy Books in a spectrum of colors.

Many people at this time were convinced that humans might actually catch glimpses of fairies in the real world. Among them, curiously enough, was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the ultimate (and extremely logical and rational) detective, Sherlock Holmes. He fell for one of the most notorious hoaxes in history, the Cottingley Fairy Hoax of 1917. Two English girls, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, presented what appeared to be photographs of actual fairies, some in poses with the girls themselves. Word began to spread about the photographs and the regular fairy visitations the girls claimed to experience, causing a media sensation for many years. Experts examined the photographs with mixed verdicts. Shortly before their deaths in the 1980's, Elsie admitted that the photos were faked, while Frances insisted that the two of them really were visited by fairies. Did each know something that the other didn't?

Poem: If You See A Fairy Ring.

Author Unknown

If you see a fairy ring

In a field of grass

Very lightly step around,

Tip-Toe as you pass,

Last night Fairies frolicked there

And they're sleeping somewhere near.

If you see a tiny fairy

Lying fast asleep

Shut your eyes

And run away,

Do not stay to peek!

Do not tell

Or you'll break a fairy spell.

Notable books of fairy tales include:

Andrew Lang's Fairy Books (Scotland, 1889 – 1910) Fairy Tales (USA, 1965) by E. E. Cummings Giovanni Francesco Straparola (Italy, 16th century) Grimm's Fairy Tales (Germany, 1812 – 1857) Hans Christian Andersen (Denmark, 1805 – 1875)

Italian Folktales (Italy, 1956) by Italo Calvino

Norwegian Folktales (Norway, 1845 – 1870) by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe Narodnye russkie skazki (Russia, 1855 – 1863) by Alexander Afanasyev Pentamerone (Italy, 1634 – 1636) by Giambattista Basile Charles Perrault (France, 1628 – 1703) Panchatantra (India, 3rd century BCE) Popular Tales of the West Highlands (Scotland, 1862) by John Francis Campbell World Tales (United Kingdom, 1979) by Idries Shah

Websites to check out:

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Upcoming A!S Shows

Catch the A!S live on stage. The schedule below does not reflect our full itinerary, only those shows that are open to the public. For details please see our tour schedule on line.

Spring

  • 3/16/2010 at 10:30 AM and 3:30 PM Emmet O'Neal Library, Mountain Brook, AL (watch it live online)
  • 3/23/2010 at 6:30 PM Esther Bone Library, Rio Rancho, NM (watch it live online)
  • 4/17/2010 at 12:00 PM Stanislaus County Library, Modesto, CA
  • 4/21/2010 at 3:30 PM Palo Alto Children's Library, Palo Alto, CA
  • 4/22/2010 at 3:30 PM Lodi Library, Lodi, CA
  • 4/29/2010 at 4:00 PM Belvedere-Tiburon Library, Tiburon, CA

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