Saturday, June 30, 2012

Notes from the field: Good-bye Argentina

Just as I started my “Notes from the Field – Argentina Edition” in an airport, I will begin this last post from one. I have a good two and a half hours before my flight, but Jimmy’s (my husband) flight was earlier, (since he booked it after mine was booked by Dream On, the company hosting my tour), and we wanted to come to the airport together. It felt odd for me to be the one on the other side of security, as he walked away. My last three shows on this “storytelling bootcamp/marathon” went well, which was soothing because on my last four show day this week I: A)felt like my voice was totally going B)couldn’t hear if the mike was working C) had kids whose English wasn’t as great as most of the others I had encountered, but they were “tweens” so stories I would use with limited language younger kids would be “babyish” for them D)Was at a school new to Dream On, and hence wanted to make a good impression for this company, whom I have grown to have a really, really deep love and respect for. I mean, all things considered, it wasn’t a disaster, but it was hard work, and it definitely wasn’t prefect which is one of the things that this tour has, once again, taught me. Carrie Parker, one of my FAVORITE yoga teachers coined a phrase I love “perfectly imperfect” – that’s what we humans are, and that, for the most part is what life is. Sometimes we get caught in thinking life is what we see at the end of the movies, when the couples have reunited, and the credits roll, or, if you’re a storytelling – when the words “happily ever after” come out of your lips. But, who is it that said,”Happily ever after all depends on when you end the story.” The GREAT musical, “Into the Woods” plays on that concept – that after the fairytale wedding, after the hero ends his journey – then what? Is life forever more “perfect”. And, is it supposed to be? One of the gifts of telling stories is that each and every time, it is new. During an experience like this, it was so very interesting to me to really see that – despite that I may have told the same story many times in one week, each time it was different. And often, it was the “imperfections” that made them most special, most alive. One instance was when I invited some children into my story – it was a school that smelled like art – from the moment you entered you could smell the paint, glue, and creativity in the air. Because their English was limited, I took the chance to model for them, and then have them act out a bit of the tale. The first set of kids acted as I thought, and set them up to, but the second set, didn’t – they got creative, and because they did, I did, too. I found, in this already new way of approaching this tale, an even more playful, risky, and alive way to bring this ancient story to life. Because the kids were up there, it was perfect and imperfect all at the same time. It was, to coin Carrie’s phrase “Perfectly Imperfect”, and it was also what was needed, and what worked. Thanks to my work as a clown, I often take risks, I am always exploring, and never, ever, ever tell stories exactly the same, and this trip both validated, and strengthened those “muscles” in me. It is in fact why, even today, after three straight weeks of storytelling, I am not burnt out, why I am eager to go home, and tell some more! I can’t help but see that if I could only approach the challenges that life throws me in the same manner I tackle those tricky storytelling moments – staying open, playful, creative, instead of tense, upset, and irate – my life would be as much fun as these storytelling performances have been. The second of the three lessons that I am leaving Argentina with comes from my own saying “It’s good to go, but it’s good to come back, too!” I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the fact that though, I am a traveler, be it for work, or be it for play – there ALWAYS comes a time when I am ready to come home. Even when Jimmy and I have been in places as stunning as Alaska or Rome, there is always a moment at the end of our adventure, when a voice in me “Let’s go back. Let’s take the inspiration we’ve just received and use it in our everyday lives.” And that excites me – it tells me that somehow I have managed to cobble together this crazy storyteller/clown/yoga teacher life, and it works for me. I went into this trip wondering if, with all the storytelling, I would even miss my work as a clown and yoga teacher, if, maybe I should just pick one thing – storytelling, and throw all my energy behind it. Maybe I would be better off, less pulled in three sometimes different directions, more “successful” – but I think I have always known this about myself. I am a woman with MANY, MANY interests, and somehow being three things at once is what I love to do, because I missed those other parts of myself, and want to return to them. AND, I see how those components of myself help me to do what I have been doing here. As I said earlier, the clowning, gives me the gift to play, to surf the moment and energy, to be open, vulnerable, and alive. And yoga, ohhhhh yoga, it is what gets my body, mind, and intentions in the right mood. I allows me to take the physical risks I take on stage, focus my mind in those moments, and keeps bringing me, time and time again back to my mission – to serve my audience. I am thankful that I have those resources to pull from, and overjoyed to be returning to them. And, the my last word on this tour is really a love letter to Dream On Productions, and it’s founder and director, Alberto, his staff of Sonia, Marcela, Carol, Sol, and Yulie. I have NEVER, EVER, EVER had people treat “storyteller me” with such respect as these people have treated me. I have NEVER, EVER, EVER felt like a group of people understood what storytelling is, what it takes, why it is special, and why, without sounding overly important AN ART. At a party that was given in the honor of Priscilla Howe (an amazing woman, who has done 4 of these tours!!!) and I, we were asked to say three words that we felt described our experience with Dream On thus far. I had been here a week, Priscilla, two. I instantly thought of the word “welcome” because they were, from the very moment of my arrival to these last moments of my stay, I have been treated like an honored guest. The second was “inspired” because the level of English in the children was so great, that it inspired me to bring my A+++++ game to them, and to their teachers who clearly are doing many, many, many things right. And, at the time my third word was “utilized” because I felt like I was being of service, being put to good use. But, as it always is, afterwards, I thought of something else, and that is “appreciated” and “respected”. I often say that the hardest part of being a storyteller (and a clown for that matter) is explaining exactly what it is I do. How can I, without it turning into a lecture, tell people that it is an ancient art form, that there are folktales from every culture, that there are stories that are for ALL AGES, that there is mystery, lessons, and healing in the words and images of these gems. How can I get them to understand, that it is not a stepping stone to being a “real actress” – as some folks think, that it is where I want to be, because I get to inhabit these amazing journeys, and bring them, in my own way to my audiences from pre-schoolers to adults. The staff at Dream On Productions “get” in a true, deep way what storytelling is, what storytellers do, and the magic that happens when the tales hit the ears and hearts of the audience. And that, has been the greatest gift to me from these three weeks. I hope I can hold onto that love, appreciation, and respect on those days, I am not feeling so loved and understood as a teller of folktales. I pray that I can always see the faces of the Dream On staff making me feel welcomed, inspired, and appreciated over and over again, as I try to do justice to the ART of storytelling. Good night Argentina – Good Morning New York!!!

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