Multi-Tasking on the Road

This time last Thursday I was hurriedly putting the last items in my suitcase so that I could get a few hours sleep before the car came to pick me up at 4:30 am to take me to Dulles Airport in the dark. I was a bit nervous -  worrying that I would sleep through the alarms and miss my plane.

Another part of me was nervous about this first storytelling trip I was making without Jim. The feelings were mixed - nervous about the trip and juggling the waves of grief that persist. Ah, me.
And all that was mixed with excitement over going to the Hagood Mill Storytelling Festival in Pickens, SC with a pre-stop in Charlotte, NC, my home town.

Interesting flight down in a small plane which they called a Canadian Regional Jet. I prefer larger planes but good conversation with an interesting seat-mate was so diverting I hardly noticed. The guy was on his way to San Antonio through Charlotte and once I told him about our time in the Air Force there and that Jim was a Flight Surgeon he was more forthcoming about himself as a Saudi Air Force F15 Fighter Pilot studying at one of the Air Force Bases in San Antonio. After he told me that I was bubbling questions about his flying, the plane and the tensions in his part of the world and he did not mind my asking.  

This was trip was an exercise in multi-tasking. I stopped first in Charlotte to have a visit with my 95 year old aunt, my daddy's younger sister and the last living one of his sibship of eight. These were the young and vibrant folks, 5 aunts and 2 uncles, who peopled my childhood. And a chance to visit with her daughter, my cousin. That's an important family visit in a short trip.

After a wonderful visit with my Aunt Loretto I drove downtown through familiar neighborhoods that are now peopled with ghosts and sweet memories. I was headed to the Carolina Room at the main Public Library on downtown Tryon Street. My goal was to find an important obituary for one of the characters in my new story.

I was in luck. The family history librarians were not busy and they were interested in helping me. They not only found the obit they also pulled up other documents about him and I left after two hours feeling rich with new information. Ideas for the story swirled through my head.

My final stop in Charlotte was to pick up my youngest sister who was going to South Carolina with me.  We started talking from the first hug and kept talking for the next 28 hours of catching up and laughing. It was great from the chicken and dumplings at the Cracker Barrel for supper through to the Festival the next morning.

Hagood Mill is a picturesgue setting with cabins, walking trails, a still, and an outside stage. There were women and men in early 1800s costumes sitting on porches working on traditional crafts. I particularly enjoyed one gregarious guy. a woodcarver, who sang a little and demonstrated how to use the spoons effectively. Since I was there as a teller, a part of the entertainment, I was working and could not visit with these folks as much as I would have liked to.

I loved the day. Being there, listening to the other tellers, and telling my stories. I particularly loved telling a shortened version of FINDING GUS my story about my grandfather who was an early football player for Clemson College in 1905-1906.

The festival attracted a crowd of real story-lovers and they were so much fun to tell to.

My sister and I headed out on the two hour drive to Charlotte right after the one-day festival was done. Hard to say good-bye - and look forward to having some time together again soon. Nothing like family!!!

Sunday morning I once again found myself on a Canadian Regional Jet - and unbelieveably it looked just like the one on Friday except it was smaller. This time I found myself sitting with another interesting character - a young and beautiful Eqyptian woman, a fashion model, who was holding a large and cuddly stuffed animal in her lap. When I fired up my mini iPad she giggled outloud - "you are doing Facebook" it was more like a question than a comment. "My mother doesn't do Facebook."
Lordy, lordy.

The same familiar driver picked me up - "how was your trip."
"Great" and I truly meant it!!!


New Video: Storyteller and author Solveig Erggez

When author and storyteller Solveig Erggez and I sat down to talk I knew it would be interesting and it was. Hope you enjoy our conversation.



When I told my Arlington story today
 a large bear of a man teared and cried

Instinctively I understood that my story had
tapped into his story
I would have cried with him if I could have
but a storyteller has to continue the tale
and bring everyone home.

So I held back my tears until I was in my car.


NEW VIDEO: Martha Pearl

Oral history is more than just asking questions. Often the person who has the story will hold back. I learned that the hard way. When ever I asked my mother for a story she danced around the bush rather that tell it to me.


One time when my mother opened a telephone conversation by telling me "I have a story to tell you." I not only listened I picked up a pencil and wrote it down. Later, by doing some sleuthing, I added another level of details to flesh out her story. In this video I tell the story I made from both elements.


NEW VIDEO: Stories in Focus: Joel Markowitz

Enjoyed talking with Joel Markowitz recently about what's new in the Theatre in the Washington DC area. 

Looking Back at the NEA Heritage Award Concert


 A week ago I wrote about the NEA Heritage Fellows Concert - but submitted to DCMETROTheatre.com a  bit late so he could not publish it. You know "old News"." Rather than scrap it I am posting here thinking there may be some storyteller folks that would want to read about it.

NEA Heritage Fellows in an Extraordinary Evening at Lisner Auditorium

By Ellouise Schoettler

“For one night each year, the National Endowment of the Arts invites recipients of the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts to share their art forms with the public at the NEA National Heritage Fellowship Concert.”  From NEA Press Announcement.  The event is open Free to the public.

Last Friday evening as I left the concert at Lisner Auditorium I

heard a woman say to her companion, “it was an extraordinary evening.” His reply, “It always is.”

This year nine extraordinary artists in the folk traditions were selected from a wide feel of nominees as 2013 National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellows. They are Sheila Kay Adams, Ballad Singer. Musician and Storyteller, Ralph Burns, Storyteller of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, Veronica Castillo, Ceramicist and Clay Sculptor, Seamus Connolly, Irish Fiddler, Nicolae Feraru, Cimbalom Player,

Carol Fran, Swamp Blues Singer and Pianist, Ramon “Chunky” Sanchez, Chicano Musician and Culture Bearer and Pauline Hillarie, Tradition Bearer, Lummi Tribe.

Friday night the Fellows appeared “In concert” at Lisner Auditorium, Washington DC with Nick Spitzer, Host of the weekly radio program American Routes was Master of Ceremonies.  Find bios along with audios and videos of all the Fellows HERE.  http://arts.gov/lifetime-honors/nea-national-heritage-fellowships/2013-nea-national-heritage-fellowships-concert

Only large color panels defined the space on the stage.  The performers were the main focus and one after the other they performed in top form before an audience who appreciated the traditional arts and they did not hold back on their enthusiasm.

Of the nine performers I was most touched by two women, ballad singer and storyteller Sheila Kay Adams and Swamp Blues singer Carol Fran.

I do have to tell you. Not only am I a fellow storyteller, I too  like Sheila Kay Adams,  am a North Carolina native . Also I have seen her perform in a tent packed wall to wall by up to 2,000 people at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee where story-lovers love her. Friday night she did herself proud as she shed her light on traditional ballad singing, storytelling and her home state.

She was not on stage specifically to tell a story but she’s a Tar Heel through and through so she couldn’t help herself.  Her causal patter with the audience about her hometown of Sodom in Madison County, NC evolved into a bit of a story. Her 7 generation deep-root connection with traditional music passed down through her family became another bit of a story. Her  explanations that ballads are songs that tell a story added to the story quilt she was piecing.

She sang two ballads, the first accapella and the second she accompanied herself with the bango. Her voice was clear and crisp and the beautiful melodies were true as she sang the stories in her songs.  Her ballad singing and her songs took the audience back more than 200 years to experience the purity of the tradition. It was a moment. More about Sheila Kay Evans HERE. 

A stranger to me, Carol Fran, is a Swamp Blues singer from New Orleans, La. She and a back-up group of jazz musicians closed the concert by bringing the audience to their feet.

Her red sequined dress glittered about her as, using a cane, her pianist gently assisted her to the center of the stage. As soon as she accepted the microphone she took charge . Her deep, resonant voice belted forth a song.

Carol Fran is called the Sarah Vaughn of New Orleans. She showed the audience she is still in command of her voice in both English and the French of Louisiana.  Her eyes were shining and her face smiling as she sang. Her body swayed gently with the music and her feet that had needed help coming on stage were slightly dancing.  She came to life in her music and inspired the audience.

“I am 80 years old this year.”  She declared proudly to the audience and a wave of applause roared back to her.

More information about Carol Fran HERE. 

It was an extraordinary evening. Don’t miss it next year. It is Free to the public. You can sign on to the Lisner Auditorium web page HERE. They will keep you informed.