Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Notes From the Field: A Storytelling

You know how there are rights of passages in a person’s life – the first two wheeler in grammar school, the learner’s permit in high school, the freshman “15” in college. Well, I’ve always sort of had my own time table. I never went to college – and THANK GOD never did that whole gaining fifteen pounds thing either, but I did learn to ride a bike and drive a car - IN MY THIRTIES!! I didn’t stop growing until I was twenty (thank God, because that allowed me to actually reach five feet!), didn’t need a bra until I was just about eighteen, and I am still waiting to have that feeling that a secure job with benefits might actually be a smart move (at this point, I don’t think that one’s ever coming, thank goodness!!) A guy who did my astrological chart years ago called it right when he said I was sort of a late bloomer, and that I had my own time table in life.
So as I reached a sort of interesting milestone this year, I wonder, am I, as always behind the curve. For it has taken me twelve years of storytelling to really fall in love with the long, serious story. The tale that doesn’t necessarily end happily or quickly; one that doesn’t come with a tidy morale ,or hilarious punch line, a tale that is as mysterious, andas full of the unknown as life. Not to put myself down, or anything, but I have always known that short, fast, and funny is my “sweet spot” – outlandish characters, cartoon like emoting, weird physicality is what I do best. Sure, I’ve told weighty tales – but they were always short, and to the point, with the underlying message highlighted in a bright day glow yellow.
But something happened to me this year. Maybe it’s the yoga, maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been doing more telling for ages eleven and up, instead of my usual kindergarten through third graders set, or maybe as a storyteller, I’m maturing. While I will boast of the ways I have never played it safe in the way I run my life, my choice of tales has always been more towards the “crowd pleaser”. If my stories where movies, they would be the action adventure film featuring two stars everyone loves, not the gritty, low budget art house film that gets great reviews and plays in exactly two theatres. They would be the ones you’re happy to see come on TV when you’re sick, so you could curl up with your tea and tissues, and know exactly what was going to happen from the moment the opening credits ran. Fun, even REALLY good, and at times the PREFECT thing – but there are other movies out there, just as there are other stories out there.
So, this school term, as I went into youth detention centers, middle schools, inner city after school programs, my “bag tricks” wasn’t going to get the job done, and so I went to the always amazing source of folktales, and I read. I read stories that I had never given the time of day to before. Stories where things happened that weren’t readily explained, journeys where the good guy didn’t necessarily win, or if he did, he did it by not being such a “good guy” after all. Stories that not only embraced the grey areas of life, but showed them for what they are – REAL LIFE. For that is one thing I think I have been learning more or less on time, that life is sooooooooooooooooo much more complex, and rich than we tend to think it is. It is full of what my friend B.B. calls, “Big time grown up S***!” . And as I am more and more okay with that as a person, I am more and more okay with that as a storyteller.
Now, let me just say this IN NO WAY means I am giving up short, fast, funny – because at my core I know that will always be how I roll. But, I am open now to tell the tales that maybe ask questions that don’t particularly have an answer.

I’m involved in three different school residencies right now, so most of my work is for them at the moment. Below are some places the general public can come and see me!!

May 2011:
5/1 Ridgewood Public Library, NJ 2PM

June 2011
6/7: Fair Haven Library, NJ 3:15PM
6/10-6/22 I’ll be in Haiti with Clowns Without Borders – visit their site: I was there in October – look for my blog entry called “The Happy Man’s Shirt” to read about it!
6/24: Montclair Public Library, NJ 11AM, 1PM
6/29:Neptune Library, NJ 3:30PM

July 2011
7/12: Arlington Branch, Brooklyn Public Library NY 2PM
7/15: Ridgefield Library, NJ 3:30PM

August 2011:
8/22: South River Public Library, NJ 7PM
8/23: Oceanic Library, Rumson, NJ 3:30PM

So,,, where is Julie when she’s not storytelling?
She might be….Performing as Dr. Ima Confused, her character for the Big Apple Circus Clown Care hospital program at Harlem Hospital for the pediatric patients and their families.(More info on the circus below) Or, you could catch her stilt walking at any number of special events. She also might be…performing as any number of characters for the Big Apple Circus Vaudeville Caravan program at the Montrose and Castle Point Veterans Hospitals. And, of course, you might find her…teaching yoga at Devotion Yoga Studio in Hoboken, NJ (mostly Monday and Friday nights, but some other times as well). And, never forget that sometimes she’s cleaning chimneys – okay, not for real – but I just looking for an ending!!!

Big Apple Circus Clown Care hospital program:
is a community outreach program of the Big Apple Circus, an
award winning presenter of live family entertainment and a leading
not-for-profit performing arts institution.
Using juggling, mime, magic, music, puppetry, storytelling and lots of
improvisation, we are specially trained “doctors of delight” who bring the
joy and excitement of the one ring circus to the bedsides of hospitalized
children one to five days each week, year round, nationwide. As Meredith
Vieira, our national spokesperson and honorary clown doctor, phrased it:
From ringside to bedside! Clown Care makes “clown rounds,” a parody of
medical rounds where humor is the prescribed treatment. As “clown doctors”,
we are professional performers who work one-on-one with the children, their
parents, and hospital staff to ease the stress of serious illness by
reintroducing laughter and fun as natural parts of life.
A national network of host hospitals, generous contributions and grants from
individuals, foundations and corporations support Clown Care.

Storytelling Arts: Here’s the organization I do a lot of storytelling residencies in schools with: They are dedicated to bringing the art of storytelling to underserved populations. Storytelling Arts works with schools and community organizations to bring the benefits of storytelling to a varied audience. Storytelling Arts programs serve to boost literacy and build community through:
• Classroom residencies in schools
• Professional development opportunities for teachers
• Programs in community organizations
• Educational services in juvenile detention centers
Devotion Yoga: Devotion Yoga is a community dedicated to creating a safe, peaceful, and non-competitive environment which offers individuals the opportunity to learn the practice of yoga through classes, workshops and related events. We are committed to providing high quality, inspiring, unique, and balanced programming that support our members in living a healthy and fulfilling life.