Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Lots and Lots of Storytelling

This is a week of stories for me. So far I've done five performances this week, and have nine more to go before the week ends and I head to Virginia to see my sisters, and then to do a couple performances in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle.

There is something special about telling stories in small rural communities. Everyone comes to the programs, from the newborn babies to the grandparents. Everyone joins in too, singing, clapping or whatever else I ask of them. This year my summer library programs have started with a take-off on Lion Hunt--I wrote Treasure Hunt and everyone joins in as we cross highways, swim rivers, etc. (I noticed that in many current versions of Lion Hunt, all mention of guns and bullets is removed. A sign of our times--and there is no mention of them in my song either). I love watching the faces of the adults as they join the fun; I think many of them recall doing this same activity when they were children. We follow that with my shortened version of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, a story that has captivated every audience this summer. Old stories, old games, new fun.

Telling in rural libraries has special challenges. Space is one of them. Some libraries are so small there is literally no place for programs, so furniture is moved, shelves are often on rollers so they can also move, and children sit on the floor. Others may have no air conditioning; still others may be on the second or third floor of a building with no elevator.

I plan my programs to be flexible; I can adapt my display to the space available, adapt the stories to fit the age groups in front of me, dress so that I can stay relatively cool whatever the environment, and bring my own sound system in case the space and the audience are large. I also bring my own folding table, extension cord, bottle of water and an open mind. The less worry for the library staff, the better so I also plan to arrive at least 30 minutes early to set up and be ready to start on time.

I am willing to wait a few minutes to start because some communities just tend to be late arrivers. I watch the weather to determine the best route to the day's performance--if there's been heavy rain I might have to take a longer way around to avoid flooded areas, and if it's winter I might also have to plan to leave a lot earlier in case of snow or ice.

It's all part of the game, and it's a game I love to play. As long as there are listeners in these libraries, I want to be there to tell stories to them, and to watch the faces of young and old light with the same delight. There surely is no better reward for what I do.

Copyright 2012 Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Lynn said...

you are fortunate to have this talent, I cannot imagine a better way to spend time with children-and what wonderful memories you are giving them!

Granny Sue said...

Lynn, I give thanks every day for being able to do this. Those who listen give me back as much as I give them :)

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