Chaos Attraction

Auburn Storytelling Festival

2019-01-26, 9:05 p.m.

Since I didn’t have Gumbo rehearsal this year, I was able to go to the Auburn Storytelling Festival and reunited with various storytelling folks that I am hitting it off with when I see them. That’s delightful. I went with Dawn and Loretta and we checked out the stores a bit before going in for the workshop.

They had a workshop at 1 p.m. with Joan Stockbridge, who came out from Texas for this (well, I think she was already here for something else so what the heck). Here are the notes I typed up:

Joan said that she got this workshop idea from an English storyteller named Ashley Ramsden.

First off, she told the story called "Slops" by Margaret Read MacDonald, found in her book "Peace Tales."

Then we followed certain steps regarding the story.

1. Write down the bones--should fit on a postage stamp (according to Ramsden) or in this class, more like on a small card. Write down the plot details.

You can tell any story if:
(a) you know the first line
(b) you write down the bones
(c) if you know the closing

The rest you can improvise!

In the case of Slops:
(a) Old couple makes the same dinner every night involving potatoes/carrots/onions, which are chopped up and mixed with the dishwater into a slop bucket.
(b) Old man slogs 10 painful steps to the wall nearest to the house, where he always throws the slops out into what he thinks is an empty abandoned lot.
(c) One night he hears a voice saying "I wish you wouldn't do that!" Doing a sobriety check on himself and noticing nobody else is there, he ignores this and goes back home.
(d) The next night, he hears the voice again, and it's some kind of small fairy/gnome man who says there's a village there. The old man says he can't see this, so the little man asks him to touch their feet together and then he can see.
(e) When the old man does this, he can see the entire invisible fairy village, all of which looks very cute except for the one house totally covered in his slops refuse.
(f) The old man feels bad, goes back home, and tells his wife what happened.
(g) The wife is totally accepting of this and decides they should use her savings to build a new door in the back so the husband can dump the slops out in the BACK instead. (It is unclear as to what happened with the slops during the year+ that it takes to remodel anything, or why they didn't just get a compost can so tell where I live when I seriously kept wondering why they didn’t just have a trash/compost bin for this.)
(h) After the door is done and the old man starts dumping the slops out the back, nobody objects to it.
(i) The next day, they find a silver coin at the door, which they continue to find daily, and they are taken care of for the rest of their lives for being good neighbors.

2. Hot Gossip: retell the story to someone as if you were telling it like it was gossip. About like this: "Oh my god, did you hear that there's an invisible fairy village in that empty lot over there?!" Dawn freaking loved that I did this and was all, “I adore you.” I think you’re easily impressed there ;) But that was fun.

3. Mapping--draw pictograms of what the story looks like/the layout is. Get to know it so well that you inhabit it.

4. Lifting the map into space: act it out at home, visualizing it.

5. Exaggeration--pick one moment in the story and ham it up more than is reasonable or good in public.

6. More and Go: this is game where you tell the story to someone else and they tell you "more" when they want you to keep stretching out details and "go" when you are allowed to move on. Example: have to keep describing the fairy village for a long time. So I was all “it looked like a Thomas Kincade village or a bunch of little houses you put out under the tree at Christmas...”

7. Everyone just retells the story for fun.

After that was the open tell, which of course I signed up for. I did the “entire contents of the sea floor”/how I got over being a picky eater story I did in December, primarily because I knew nobody in this audience has heard that one and I’d only done it in Sacramento so far. (Note: Mary and Robin came up later that night and asked what one I’d done.) I even wore a shirt with fish and underwater scenes on it, which at first was a coincidence as I was trying to figure out what to wear that day and then I just went with it. It was appreciated by the emcee, lemme tell ya. I think the middle climax about my just sucking it up and eating was kind of “eh” to everyone, but people seem to relate to the issues about being grossed out by various foods, so it went okay, even if I forgot what the hell it is when you fry a Snickers bar at the county fair. Also forgot to have Dawn film it, but oh well.

Other memorable stories:

* Linda telling her “Suitcase” one I’ve seen at Sierra and in my town.

* A story from Dave about a one-armed kid taking up judo and only being taught one throw, which he thought was stranger but when he asked the sensei about it, the sensei said that was the only one he needed to know. Then the sensei has the one-armed kid enter a judo competition and he only has the one throw, but it defeats everyone he fights. Afterwards he asks what’s up with that and (I got this before the rest of the audience did, which is funny since I know no judo) the sensei says that the only defense against that move is to grab at his missing arm!

* One nurse who was a giant fan of Joe Montana, who practiced near her work. As she and another nurse are working on a lady in a coma, they are going on about how much they love Joe and the nurse says she needs to figure out a way to get rid of his wife Jennifer so she can marry him, and then the lady WAKES UP FROM HER COMA to say “over my dead body! He’s MY catch!” The nurse later told this story to Joe Montana himself, who loved it and autographed her hat, which she had on that day.

* I didn’t write down the rest of this story, but it’s one where the person is sentenced to death and is allowed to choose their own method of execution and they smartly choose (and I guessed it again) “of old age.”

* There was a traveling poet who did a poem called “She Reads Books While She Walks,” and Dawn was all, “This is about you, isn’t it?” Har.

* There was another story of a guy who is just straight up recapping how a kid told him the plot of Wizard of Oz went. It was delightful. I didn’t write down too much later on, but it was good.

Then there was the Liar’s Contest, which I had heard of before but never seen. For whatever crackassed reason, I volunteered to judge this. They had six people up and whoever tells/sells the best lie in their story wins the coveted Golden Shovel Award. We agreed very quickly and unanimously that last year’s winner was also this year’s winner--he didn’t try to sell it as something that happened to him, but it was an entertaining story about competing twins that he really got reactions from the crowd doing. The runner up was telling a story about nuns at her school.

During the dinner break, which was pretty short, we ran and got pizza, so that worked out.

The nighttime tellers were:

Margaret Main, who had on a lovely purple velvet blingy suit and told a story about when she was younger and her husband was always gone working for PG&E, they decided to get a guide dog... and answered an ad for one selling an Airedale for $20. They gave it to her for $10, which was a hint right there... and of course he utterly trashes the house and she brought him back, which I doubt they were thrilled with. Great delivery.

Angela James, who I met at one of our events in town when she attended/went out to dinner (we talked about sewing), but hadn’t seen perform before. SHE WAS A HOOT. I should mention that she’s from the Caribbean. She was dressed in a cowboy-ish outfit (plaid shirt and jeans) and was telling a story about how she loves cowboys. A friend of hers got her tickets to the Folsom rodeo...but by the time they went, Angela had a broken leg and was on crutches, and apparently the friend’s tickets were alllllll the way at the top. So as she’s about to give up and leave, two big ol’ skinheads with swastikas shaved into their hair and one of them has a tattoo of “White Power” across his chest walk up and ask if she needs help. (Naturally, she assumes she’s about to die.) Well, “White Power” picks her up and the other guy carries her stuff and uses the crutches to clear a path through the people. Everything is fine.
Something like 20 years later she’s telling this story at a corporate event and the guy who hired her is saying, “yeah, it’s a true story,” and then he unbuttons his shirt....Yup, it’s “White Power” guy!

I did wonder afterwards if she ever found out why that guy was making the life choices he did. I didn’t really get to talk to Angela afterwards other than “good story!” or whatever, but Linda told me later that Angela never found out. I’m guessing she asked.

Mike Tomson was someone I didn’t recognize from his photo (I’ve been in workshops with him), but I think of him as “Hawaiian Guy” from his clothes. Yes, he’s from Hawaii and was telling stories about how to make lava stop flowing--both when a Hawaiian princess got lava to stop and later when a bunch of elementary school kids were bidding farewell to their school when it was about to be overcome by lava. The lava stopped RIGHT at the fence that they’d decorated for the occasion.

Mary McGrath from the Sacramento event told next and I really liked her story about how her mom had a “rich” friend with a fancy dress that she took in to be dry cleaned at the dry cleaner that her mom worked at. Mary borrowed the dress to wear to a formal and really enjoyed it...until the friend turned up as a chaperone, spotted it, and Mary was forced to go home with a security guard and remove the dress. Notes to myself after hearing this: savor the moment in these stories, and add snark.

I wrote down a few notes about her commentary about her date, Harold:

“You look nice,” he said. “What do boys know?” Wait until the girls see her...
“Even Harold started to look good to me.”

Also amusing: Mark the emcee introducing her as his close personal friend for 2 hours now...

Kirk Waller was back with a lot of instruments, telling the story of a wife getting framed for presumably eating her twin babies, who were floated down a river, and twenty years later the twins find their biological mother in exile and exonerate her. Wow on that.

Joan Stockbridge told a story I’d heard the last time I saw her, which in all honesty I wasn’t super clear on last time or this time either--about one god being all spiteful and his sister-god hiding from him.

The final performer was Bill Ratner who was probably the only one I was really not into, because his story was essentially all about how he couldn’t stand his daughter using technology and wanting to lock her down. This guy had some Hollywood stories I wouldn’t have minded hearing more about--he did a bit of that--but by the end it felt weird and preachy and not so much my thing. Ah well.

Anyway, we had a great time and I look forward to the next one!

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