Once a month, on the second Wednesday of the month, I do a half hour Telling at a local nursing home.
See, performance storytelling is done by Tellers and what they do is Tell, so yeah... I Tell stories to the residents once a month.
I got the gig when I was shadowing another local Teller, learning what I could about the craft. Oddly, although many Tellers are terrific at spinning tales, the ones I've met haven't been very good at explaining how Telling is done. And I guess that's because like any art, it's really up to the artist. There are a few books out there about the craft, but by far more compilations of stories and every once in a while a good commentary about Telling. So, like the old days, the best way to learn is to Tell and watch Tellers Tell.
The gig became solo when the nursing home wanted Storytelling twice a month, so the other Teller Tells on the fourth Weds and I get the second Weds.
The first time I went to the nursing home I felt pangs of memory, remembrances of when my Lola was at Mount Saint Vincent, a resident there to keep her safe during the last stages of her Alzheimer's. The scent there is the same, part sanitizer, part White Shoulders perfume, part vinyl and lanolin. All the residents ride in wheelchairs, some simple affairs of chrome and rubber, wheeled by patient, jaded yet hopeful aides. Others have more permanent looking motorized chairs - once, during a story, I watched out of the corner of my eye, one resident do a slow, power assisted wheelie with her chair. Totally cool. Totally distracting. Really loved it.
When my Lola was at MSV I visited her rarely. I was living across the state and visited Seattle only a few times a year. I watched her shrink slowly over the years - I have two clear memories of her last days...once she bit my finger thinking it was a cookie I was offering her. The other time, I wheeled her out into the sunshine the day her husband died, realizing that there was no way we could explain to her that he was gone and not coming back to visit her, no matter how often she asked.
I Tell at the nursing home because I'm learning my craft, but I'm also, I know, trying to somehow take back that lost time with her. She's been gone ten years now...
When I started Telling, I decided that I would only Tell Filipino tales. I wish I could say it was my idea, but it was actually Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo of Eth-Noh-Tec who had suggested it... "There aren't any Filipino tellers out there," he said. "At least none we've seen." And considering their career, I have little reason to doubt, although I hope to find FilAm Tellers, even as I have found FilAm writers.
So I research Filipino stories and Tell them at various events. The oddest Teller/Telling combination yet was me trying to render a solo version of Seven Silly Fellows at the local Scottish Festival last year. I preface each telling with how the story I'm about to tell comes from the Philippines or from the place my parents came from. I'm still working out the whole "US born Filipino American, I really don't have time to explain my ambivalent relationship with my culture, but here's a cool story anyway" thing.
At the nursing home, they're as likely to fall asleep as to follow the tales I unravel, and I often wonder if they understand where my stories come from. Tonight I had a lively group, though. Instead of the usual dining room venue, we were stationed in a small alcove known as the TV room (meaning - there's the widescreen TV and here's a few chairs). My audience was lined up three rows deep, perhaps the biggest yet, and my stage was about the size of an average dining room table surface.
Two stories - one about an honest woodsman who meets a diwata and one about (as usual) three princes in search of a princess (and a kingdom to rule).
I try to find original sources when I can, conscious that every storyteller and researcher has an agenda, no matter how benign. They both needed work to be Tellable, but the second more so than the first... They both came through decently enough and I think by the time I retell them this weekend at the Public Market, they'll be solid stories for my story bag.
Anyway, after I finished an elderly gentleman (because really, he was sweet and not an 'old man' in any way) asked if the stories I told were ones I had heard growing up. When I told him no, he seemed disappointed, but pressed me further. What stories /did/ you grow up with? And I gave him the litany that any Disney-raised child would give - Snow White, Cinderella, Jungle Book... Little Red Riding Hood... at which point, I was given a request by another resident to Tell Goldilocks and the Three Bears on my next visit (I wonder if there's a PI version?)
You should tell stories from your heritage, he told me and I smiled. The two I told tonight were from my heritage, I replied. And that pleased him very much. He shook my hand and thanked me.
I hope he's there again next month. There are so many more stories to learn and Tell.
Speaking of Lolas...
Dear Friends and Colleagues and Family,
The petition to support House Resolution 121 is one month old today and carries 1416 international signatures. We have two more weeks to push the numbers beyond 2000. Abe arrives on the 26th of April.
When the petition began House Res had 42 co-sponsors in Congress. Today 77 Representatives are co-sponsoring this resolution. We need 100 for the resolution to pass.
If you are a US Citizen and signed the petition, please take a moment to email your Congressperson ( http://www.house.gov/Welcome.shtml). Tell him or her you live in his/her district and you signed the petition. Cut and paste the petition link: http://www.gopetition.com/online/11466.html . Tell your Congressperson House Resolution is important to you and to support it.
We have the support of so many international citizens — especially Japanese citizens. Let’s move the petition to a new level.
M. Evelina Galang