Saturday, November 17, 2007

Miss Cleo's small but huge Tellabration

Does the success of the event depend on the number of people in the audience? Many of you would say yes. I would say no, not the slightest bit. Tonight was one of the best storytelling events I've ever had, and we only had 3 people for an audience.
Miss Cleo has a wonderful place here in Hartford, with her own tiny little bookstore called Cull Books. She herself is the kind of person who starts smiling when you meet her, and keep smiling... probably forever. She set up the place for the Tellabration, arranged everything, brought food and drinks, and created a friendly atmosphere that was waiting for us when we arrived. The third storyteller for the evening was Gail Zeiba, the tiny, elegant lady with the twinkle in her eye and the warm voice. And so the Tellabration begun.
Miss Cleo told us an all-time favorite, a story that is very close to all storytellers' hearts (The King Who Loved Stories, at least this is how it's called when I tell it) and she was a happy smile herself. Then it was my turn to tell; I told a Hungarian folktale, The Tree that Reached the Sky, and I felt I told it well (as far as I can tell, the audience agreed). With all the friendly people around, I just sat back, and enjoyed the story myself - a rare experience, and a very nice one too.
And then, Gail started telling a story, well, more like hitting us in the face with a story, and I was right down on the floor. One half of her power was the story itself (one by Ursula K. Le Guin - and one of the best stories I've ever heard), and the other half the way she told it - her voice was sharp and clear and colorful, and her eyes were telling the story along with the words. I was just glad I didn't have to go up to the "stage" next, so I could sit half-dazed with the all the feelings and thoughts left behind by her tale.
Miss Cleo's sister wanted to tell us a true story, and we were happy to listen. She told us about her experiences teaching Hartford kids - it was all true, and it was heart-breaking and heart-warming the same time. Then Gail came again, with a folktale and a song (and what a nice tale it was:), and Miss Cleo with a true story to warm our hearts again. Then it was my turn; I felt happy and enthusiastic and comfortable, so I told one of my dearest, most favorite stories, Mr. Death and the Red Headed Woman. You know, one of the tales I always enjoy telling, and probably would tell it to the walls if I didn't have audience, just for the sheer joy of telling it... and the nice little friendly audience loved it too (Gail already knew it, and it was even better that she liked my version too:).
It was Gail who wrapped the evening up into a nice bundle of colorful tales and laughter and kindness, and tied it up with a last story (Wisdom and Luck), and then all was left for us was to eat some cookies, drink some coffee and apple juice, talk (and talk... and talk... and talk...) and then set out on our way again, happy and content with the evening.
Well, I can't speak for anyone else, but I had a great time. It really felt like good old all-evening storyswapping between people who have something in common.
If you ask me, this is what the Tellabration is about.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Coyote vs Raven

I ran out, grabbed the lunch box, and ran back. Through the three Jonesborough days it became my routine between session 2 and 3 - I walked down to the food tents, bought sandwiches and a bottle of water, and walked back to get a good place in the next tent.
The first afternoon I had absolutely no idea where to go; all the show titles seemed equally promising, so I decided to stick to one tent and see what happens. Well, I failed. On the way back from the food court, with the box and the bottle and my coat and my bag in my arms (I looked like a squirrel gathering for winter), I crossed the creek and - stopped. In the shadows of the Courthouse Tent there was a black, winged creature dancing for the sound of drums, turning and jumping, and I nearly dropped all the stuff I carried, and tripped over my own leg, hurrying to get a closer look.
When I am in a good mood, storytelling means tricksters for me. Not trickster tales (although I love them all), but the pure joy of mischief and fun, and wit and a tiny bit of magic, unruly art, colorful chaos. And Raven is one of the guys who immediately made my official Trickster Top 10 (and also the unofficial Guys to Sweep You off Your Feet Chart, but that's another story) as soon as I first read about him. And there he was.
Actually, it was Gene Tagaban, one of the New Voice tellers. And his voice, besides being new (well, every voice at the Festival was new to me), was deep and rich and... story-telling. Raven was not only on his drum (a beautiful one, though - I wonder what it is with me and drums...), but also in his blood. I sat and listened as he told the story of Raven and the Sun and the Moon and the Stars, and I thought: "Now, this is a trickster telling a story."
And the next one was a special treat for me. Raven tricks Coyote - I never ever heard two tricksters going against each other before, let alone two of my favorites (for Coyote is one nice piece of cake too), and (with the words of the storyteller) "It was GOOOOD!" The world of Native American tales is still all new to me - and I'm glad this was the first taste of storytelling I had.
(And, just to go with the trickster image, he has a good sense of humor too - made me laugh out loud, several times. Again, fortunately, this was not the last time I heard him telling...)
Last day, in the afternoon - the Festival is almost over, people like me gathering in the tents to listen to every bit of magic left for the last session... and there he was again, with Raven and Hawk bringing the fire (one of my favorite types of stories - the version I know is with Coyote, but he was still sleeping off the day before I guess... growing a leg back takes a while, even for a trickster:) He was the one who passed on the fire, and I'm most grateful to carry it with me wherever I go.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Jonesborough - A wonderful night to be dead

(Halloween in coming, and Jonesborough days are haunting me...)

I was lying on the grass, with hands behind my head, looking up at the sky and searching for the first star to appear. All around me, hundreds of people were doing the same, filling the dusk with a deep murmur of joy and anticipation. The wind was tiptoeing among the willow trees; the pavilion was glowing with a strange green light, and the fact that it was empty made the eerie harp music more... well, eerie. Saturday evening - time for the Ghost Story Concert.
I never really liked ghost stories, or any kind of "scary stuff" for that matter. I especially hate jump tales. We don't have Halloween. But I knew for sure that, once at the Storytelling Festival, I can't miss a chance to have a taste... of horror. After all, I thought, how scary can it be with such a crowd around me? Sure enough, there was not a free piece of ground from one end of the park to the other. And, as all good ghost stories begin, it was getting darker... and darker... and darker still...
"What a wonderful night to be dead!" the emcee's cheerful voice made me jump. Whoa, what a creepy way to be happy. Again, with Halloween missing from the family's medical history, the only experience I could rely on consisted of some late-night visits to the candle-lit cemetery, and some fire-lit storytellings in the summer camp... but everyone around me seemed to be familiar with this sudden morbid mood, so I pulled my knees to my chin and tried to settle in.
I was happy to hear a familiar, strong voice filled with music ringing out into the night: Heather Forest was on stage, I'd seen her before, and immediately put her on the list of my favorites. She could be scary, yeah, she could - in the summer sunshine of the afternoon before she froze the blood in me with the curse of the fairy queen on Tamlin. She was the one to open the night of horror. The Boy Who Drew Cats - a familiar story, I smiled, and let the music and the voice carry me. And then she announced that the next story was from Hungary. And I sat bolt upright again. She called it the Ghost's Gold, and though not by this title, but I knew the story, and caught my breath, not because of fear, but because of curiosity... I've never heard any foreign teller telling a Hungarian tale before. And. She. Was. Good. I started to realize how strong a story can be, if combined with music or song, and I rested my chin on my knee and smiled and listened and watched and relaxed and then she screamed and I nearly bit off my tongue. So much about jump tales.
While I was tasting my own blood, Bobby Norfolk came on stage, and, as usual, he was moving and telling and acting and playing and he looked like he enjoyed the tale as much as we did. Some children giggled in the background - I always knew kids were bloodthirsty and evil and best friends with all kind of creepy creatures, but I can imagine how much it would confuse me if I was telling the tale... and I giggled myself. After Taleypo, he came up with "the real stuff", the Florida legend of Uncle Monday, and I was struck again (without jumping, this time).
The Storycrafters gave a twist to the evening: they came with a tale of bittersweet love and sorrow so deep they made the audience let their tears fall without noticing... and the quiet song is still in my head after all these weeks, sometimes I catch myself humming it while walking back to the dorm after dinner, and it always make me feel... uncomfortable, to say the least... and when I meet all the colorful and happy Halloween decoration, I just smile. In addition, they came up with a hilariously funny rap version of the Golden Arm, and I've never thought that so many sayings concerning death can be crammed into such a short piece...
The sound of the evening train and its strong lights dancing behind the trees made a wonderful background, and a ten-minute break. The Ghost Train came and went, huge black monster in our horror-filled night, and, as usual, the Jonesborough crowd welcomed it as an old friend...
Gene Tagaban was already sitting between light and darkness while the others were telling; now he walked on stage with his drum, and seemed quite comfortable in the night filled with spirits and strange creatures. Actually, he sang for them, and because he is who he is (a very special storyteller), we all believed what he told us... (with his deep voice, the drum, and the usual nice sense of humor, of course). We clapped with our fingers, creating a strange low noise in the darkness, like something walking or dancing around, on the palms of hundreds of people... it was fascinating.
And it was Lyn Ford who was left, with the task to chill our blood for the rest of the night and the long way home. And she did. She told the ghost story, and she sang, in the nice and kind voice of dead girls who scare the hell out of everyone all the time... and again, the song remained, and I can't get it out of my head.
When I was back in my safe and silent room, I caught myself glancing towards the mirror, time to time. Yeah, I'd had nights with ghost stories before, stories which made the guys go everywhere together for several days... but I'd never been on the "receiving end" of the horror story business, never, let alone in a place like Jonesborough, where the "very best", the elite of scariness and creepiness and eeriness tell the tales under the willow trees and the green pavilion, and the Ghost Train haunts the night of whisper and sudden scream...

Jonesborough - When time stopped

"Don' worry, honey, ya're goin' to the South ya know..." she said, and she smiled. Half a dozen times I heard this sentence the week before the Festival, and half a dozen times I smiled back with having absolutely no clue what it meant. But at least it made me feel a little bit less nervous.
When I boarded the bus (the one with my own favorite Peter Pan painted on its side), and pulled my knees to my chin on the seat, resting my forehead against the window, I wasn't sleepy (which is kind of a miracle because it was 1 am), I wasn't scared (not like my parents on the other side of the World), I wasn't even anxious - all alone, in the back of the bus, I felt like I was part of something. I watched the lights along the road, and I started telling the story to myself:
"Every single year, on the same night, this night, wanderers of North and East, South and West, are on the road, all alone or with company, heading towards the same place, the same tiny town far far away, under the starts, under the moon, just like me, on the bus, on the train, in the car, on the plane, on sea and air and water they come, from their journeys; it doesn't even matter where they are, where they were before, how many thousands of miles they keep to themselves, some of them are already sleeping, already there, but not yet arrived - but tomorrow, with the light of dawn, they will be there. Just like me."
And so I shared that crazy 22-hour bus ride with hundreds of people, Tellers and Listeners alike, and I felt the same a hero would feel when the journey begins (well, not every hero, of course. Some of them would be like "Nooo, let me stay home!". But that's another story).
Tell me about sleep deprivation.

And the South was, indeed, beautiful. I saw forests and mountains and small towns and... well, more forests and more mountains and more small towns, and hawks and blue birds and lakes, and tiny white churches. And then, just before sundown, when we left the mountains and the road took a turn - I looked up, and I saw all the clouds turning from white to rainbow. Not gold and pink, and not circled by a seven-colored arch - their white just turned to colors, all over my head, and stayed like that till the sun reached the horizon (no, it's not an allegory. It's the wonder of light, copyright by Nature herself). And from that moment, time stopped for me, and stood still like a painting, till the end of the Festival.

In the first morning, with the rainwater slowly disappearing in the warm autumn sunshine, I couldn't help but stare. At Jonesborough. At the houses. At the people. At the Storytelling Center. At the tents. At the pumpkins. At the scarecrows. At the Storytelling Center again. At... basically everything. Time stood still, well, yes... but many times I ended up running to arrive on time to the first session of storytelling... running along the road with the tiny shops, the autumn flags, the hay bales, the sunflowers and pumpkins and scarecrows and the butterfly-shaped bench on the sidewalk. I never enjoyed being late so much...

But, really, I should be writing about the storytellers instead. So much about Jonesborough.

Before the tale

Before I plunge into all the details and the colorful bazaar of memories, I first have to say that the order I will speak about events has nothing to do with the real sequence of them, or my preference towards one teller or another... a little bit of this, a little bit of that, this is how we usually remember.
Probably I will upload some pictures too, but till then, fell free to visit my Hungarian blog, and check out the Jonesborough pictures there. Link on the left.
And now, back to the story.

Jonesborough - Beginning from the end

Yesterday evening, done with all my homework (well, most of it), finished with everything to do, I climbed into my bed, cuddled under the blankets, turned on the CD player, and listened once again to the voice of Dolores Hydock, filling the room with magical words: "A wise king... A vengeful queen..." and I smiled.
The hundred-thousandth time I did the same (or, at least, it seems so - I lost count), fortunately the CD is not worn out that easily, the tape would be in shreds. And still, I listened, all the way through the hour, and smiled and laughed out loud, and caught my breath at the end.
And I saw the king and the queen and Silence and the minstrels and the dragon and the battle... but I also saw in my mind the Creekside Tent with the chairs and the colorful crowd of people, the stage with the musicians, the sunshine, the train behind the tent... and, standing in front of us in a skirt of rags and staff in her hand, I saw the Storyteller, her twinkling eyes, her all-knowing smile, her hands, always moving to guide us along the journey. Every word I remember, every wink, every gesture - and I'm so sure that for a long-long time, it will be the same.
And when I think of those three days, this is one of the first pictures that come to my mind - the first, I say, but far from being the only one. And when I turned off the CD player and lay in bed, listening to the Connecticut rain's whisper on the window - they all came back to me.
And so begins the tale of Jonesborough.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Telling a dragon in two minutes

The dragon tale keeps coming back to me. Today I found it's perfect place and time.
Today was the day for the finals of the college public speaking contest. We went to watch Ngoni speaking (he talked his way into the finals, the only international student, we were sooo proud of him!), but there was this Wild Card, invite-someone-from-the-audience-to-compete thingy, and suddenly I was on stage again (no smart dress, no nothing). First I chose Comedy, and talked about what job I would invent that nobody else has in the world (I chose Telling The Truth - one person only, one month career).
The competition was fantastic. Awesome. Hilarious. People were funny, brave and really good; the speeches made us laugh our heads off. By the time I had to go back on stage for the second ground, I felt great, I loved the audience (and I knew I had absolutely no chance to win, and did not mind it the slightest bit!). So when I drew "Why should English be the official language of the United States?", I just told them that I had a great time listening to all the speeches, and I love English even if it's not my native language, and I gave them, as a present, the story of Drawing the Dragon, because I felt it shining, finding its place and time, and I wanted all those people to know that they all succeeded in drawing the perfect dragon in two minutes. And I did too. By the time the red sign went up, I finished the story, and they loved it.
This was my price at the contest. I couldn't ask for more.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

One to one

Song of the day: Captain Wedderburn (by Great Big Sea)

Sometimes we do forget how nice it is to tell to only one person, eye to eye; without caring about audience, time, setting, microphones. I did forget, nearly. Today I told bedtime stories to my friend Kata is a café, and on our way back to the dorm. All my favorites, without theme or order; Anansi, Captain Wedderburn, the Dragon Prince, Mr. Death... the Very Best Of. I really, really shared them with her. I have to do this more often. The experience does not depend on the number of the audience. A storyteller owes herself these one-to-one tellings. This was a real special occasion.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Dancing Stories

I had my first Kathak class on Wednesday - an experience every storyteller should have once. The magic of India with the music, the colors and the sound of ankle-bells, the movements so light as feather, a blink of an eye that tells a story... they are all wonders by themselves, but if you are the one doing it, especially together with other people, it is rather like the miracle itself. Of course, you have to be born with it, or learn it throughout two or more lifetimes... but I figured that I have this opportunity once, and if I can learn just a single one of all those beautiful movements, then it's absolutely worth it.
If you haven't seen Kathak yet, check it out on YouTube.
I spent my evening watching water dripping from my fingers, moving them up and down (one of the movements for the technical piece).

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

First hint of storytelling

We were walking downtown when I heard Trang nagging Ngoni to tell her a story on the boat where we were about to have our lunch, so she wouldn't get boatsick, whatever it is. Ngoni kept glancing around for help and started pushing her towards me, "ask her, she will". I felt the smile appearing on my face.
"This is your lucky day. I'm a storyteller." - it just felt soooooo good to say it out loud. Then it all disappeared in an enthusiastic scream.
Short story for short trip: The King Who Loved Dragons. My first story told over here. It's not like it mattered, though. As brother Anansi would say, all stories are connected to each other. You have no need to pick a first one in the web.

Storyteller walking in

When we had been sitting on the plane for 7 hours and we still saw nothing but blue and blue and blue we started to think that maybe this whole America thing is just a huuuuge big joke and we're going to end up in India after all. We did not.
After spending 9 hours at JFK (killing time with admiring various things, just like state symbols on our brand-new quarters) we arrived to the enchanted midnight fairy tale called college campus, which, according to our rather random and half-asleep, full-jetleg observations, consists of many different things:
- crickets (millions of them actually, roaring all around)
- trees
- squirrels (dozens of them)
- lovely, old-fashioned street lamps
- redbrick houses
- beds (their importance increased a LOT after 30 hours of not-sleeping, that's how they made it to this list)
It was not really that "storyteller walking in with a single bag, a lute and a feather hat, whistling and smiling" kind of thing - it was rather like "the storyteller dragging herself with two backpacks and a suitcase, yawning uncontrollably and blinking like an owl with short-sight issues". But it still had a certain feeling of a beginning adventure.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The land I came from...

How should I describe the land I came from? I used to think that there was not too much to describe at all, but right now, collecting and arranging all the Hungarian tales and legends to bring them with me to the US, the possibilities seem totally endless. If it would be a real storytelling moment, I'd tell you the tale from the very beginning to the very time we live in, but that would definitely take more than a moment... several moments, in fact. I could go into J .R. R. Tolkien mode and describe the woods, the hills and the "stars uncounted" in long sentences all ringing like church bells. Don't get scared, I won't. Right now, I'm more into checklists (guess why!:)

Let's see what storytellers and story-lovers would probably be glad to know.

The land I came from...

... is the land of dragon riders. Yep. It sounds totally cool, and we invented it a waaaay before Eragon was even thought of. Come back later for garabonciás stories.
... used to be the Kingdom of Fairies. Not the teeny-weeny butterfly-winged ones.The real ones (I have no objections for butterfly wings at all! I could use a pair myself). From rivers and woods and caves and marshes they built themselves a kingdom in Szigetköz and Csallóköz. Yay, I love those legends. They are quite sad at the end, though.
... has a castle or a fort on every mountain, every hill, every rock, every mole-hill and most of the anthills too. And every single one of them has their own legend (except for the anthills, I guess, but never underestimate a storyteller. I already have the name for THE ant!). I can't get enough of them.
... has a unique monster called rézfaszú bagoly, but I'd rather not translate the name. Trust me, it's serious.
... has it's own sleeping king just like Finn Mac Cool, King Arthur, Holger Danske. Well hidden somewhere, saved for worse times, ready to be reloaded.
... has dragons who look like humans. Some of them have vast amounts of heads, though. But they are rather effective when pissed.
... has magic horses in any size, any age, any kind, all coming in copper, silver, gold and diamond, and the deluxe version includes shape-shifting and free advice.
... has rather nice and friendly devils. Really. And the less nice ones are still funny. And the dangerous are manageable.
... has legendary princes who can consume incredible amounts of alcohol. Just for the sake of politeness, of course.

There are still some more facts coming up to this list. Not now.

You don't get a word? Start Googling;)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Granny Squannit a-waitin'

When planning a trip to... anywhere, I always start by browsing through books and webpages to find something, a story, a legend or at least a faint belief to start with. It doesn't necessarily has to be something famous or huge, but it's important to find something special that captures my imagination. And searching is the fun part. If I find a legend too easily, at first click, I might leave it alone and search further.
This is how I started reading about Connecticut, and sweeping through the Constitution and nutmegs and Hartford and Mark Twain and Yale and more nutmegs I finally arrived to the Native Americans (I spent a lot of time with the nutmeg part though, which I find extremely facinating, but I'll leave it for later).
This whole Native American world is brand new to me, and I jumped right in, link after link, and suddenly there it was, the page with all the stories, and I had what I was looking for. The lady's name is Granny Squannit.

Here is the link: http://www.mohegan.nsn.us/heritage/makiawisug.aspx

I always loved every kind of Little Folk, and the minute I read this story I knew that I'll make Granny Squannit my imaginary host for the Hartford trip. It might seem that I've rushed into this decision, but I need a point to start, and I will be able to clear the view around me, starting with Native Americans and broadening the collection till I will be able to tell stories about Connecticut for hours and hours (and then I'll only have to figure out how to nail the audience to their chairs...) (and I still have a long way to go to the nutmegs. Gee, I like the word. Nutmeg. Nutmeg. Nutmeg.)
Besides, I especially love the idea of Granny being married to Moshup, a giant, and their fights making all the storms in the land. I can clearly imagine the tiny little shrew with her eyes like blackberries and moving like a bird, with deafening thunder pointing out her every argument... what a couple! I'm going to dig into that.
It's getting late. Three notes for my first day seem totally enough. Yawn.

Tell everybody I'm on my way...

God knows how I envy those wandering Medieval storytellers: no visa, no paperwork, no passports, no borders, none of that pack in - measure - pack out - re-arrange - pack in - measure - get pissed - pack out crazyness. All they had was a backpack (or something like that) and a lute (ow, I want a lute so badly!) and their multicolored coats and hats with feathers and the road. The Road.
On the other hand, I have to admit that I like it better this way. I'm the child of the 20th century, and let's face it, I wouldn't survive for a single week in the Middle Ages (I'm still working on that, though. Check out later.). And I wouldn't be going to the US either if it wasn't for the Internet and phone calls and e-mails - probably I wouldn't even know about the place! (thanks, Columbus!) Good news is, I can plan my trip, I can contact all those great storytellers all around the World, and find tons of places to visit in advance. And books. Yep, I definitely love the books. Amazon.com will be happy to have me in the US.

IMPORTANT NOTE TO ALL THE READERS: I started this blog as The Multicolored Lady, the Storyteller. There won't be many personal details about me, or long descriptions of my everyday life - I still don't believe in sharing them with the faceless crowd of the WWW. If you were counting on it, ye be warned. BUT there will be lots of stories; not just real tales I've learnt or written, but also tidbits and adventures of the journey of a storyteller, with experiences, interesting details, all the ups and downs, and yes, pictures and hopefully audio! If it sounds good enough to you, bookmark my blog and come back to visit once or twice a week - take this journey with the storyteller!

So, tell everybody I'm on my way (and don't tell them I got my topic line from Brother Bear OST - such a happy song!). I'll take all the 21th century merits (without such flaws as the packing process) and make them into a timeless journey with stories uncounted, places filled with legends, many people to meet, and I'll carry my own little backpack of tales wherever I go. On foot or by plane, it really doesn't matter.

Meet the Multicolored Lady!

"I’m the Weaver of Words, Teller of Tales, Traveller of Time. I’m the one who never keeps a secret, but always has plenty of them; I’m the one who can tell you the most beautiful lies but would tell the truth even if it cost my life. I’m the one who speaks the language of water and fire and all the words of mankind – but I never say a word if it does not have it’s time and place. I’m the one who knows how to tame a dragon, and how to fight an evil witch; but I wouldn’t shoot a gun. I’m the one who knows all the crimes and weaknesses, but I love mankind more than anyone. I’m the one who tells the first tale to the baby, and keeps the last one of the dead. I’m a link in the chain that connects people to themselves. I’m a storyteller."