Chaos Attraction

Storytelling In Three Time Zones

2020-06-20, 11:27 p.m.

I got up early today to watch The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities:, which is about people who portray historical characters. (And also has sign language interpretation!)

People in it today....

* Dr. Caroliese Frink Reed....who sounded like she was just reading off paper/her screen, didn't portray anyone....kinda a dull reader. I later deduced that she was there in an intellectual capacity and was not a performer, which explains a lot, I guess.
* Sheila Arnold, who played Onee (?) Judge, maid to Martha Washington, telling the story of how she found out that the household was moving back and forth from Philadelphia every five months so she couldn't be freed.
* Darci Tucker, playing a Loyalist wife at the end of the Revolutionary War as she's about to go home to England.
* Brian "Fox" Ellis, who says he likes to play "the friends and rivals of Abraham Lincoln," and he played Billy Herndon, Lincoln's law partner, talking about a spousal murder. He said he likes to do that because you get different perspectives on Lincoln that Lincoln himself would never say.

Brian plays 60 characters! He loves the research, changes characters with hats and wears a more general 1850's clothing when doing that. He said on his Amazon page he has books he's written on the characters. Costume as characterization, he doesn't nitpick and goes for "vague sense of" rather than "historically accurate underwear." I will note that Darci was rummaging down below the camera during Brian's talking...and she'd changed into a different character!

Darci says she does three characters in a show and layers the costumes for each one on top of each other. When she plays a character who enlisted as a man (Deborah Sampson) she has a male outfit. She changes behind a curtain for kids because they freak out, but "I can do a full costume change in 30 seconds." Online she just turns her back and does it in front of them. She is more into historical accuracy. "As long as your audience knows what to don't have to do head to toe full blown." Brian is a hat collector and has 40 hats in the back, and buys himself a hat as a reward when he finishes a show.

Darci "finds her voice" of characters while sewing their clothes. She adapts things from thrift shops. She also likes to visit where they lived and find the objects to get into their minds. (Is she a Taurus?) Brian feels similarly (I get the feeling the question answering is being paired by which people have similar methods of performing and clearly Brian and Darci are simpatico! Brian pulled out a painting and said he could talk about the regalia in the painting for an hour.

Dr. Reed: was a librarian, loves history, had to come up with stories on the spot for kids. (She got more lively here, thank god.) Sheila: historical narrative, we've got framed who's bad/good and significant/insignificant. Stories permeate through us. We're not revising history, we're adding more texture and layers in. Adding in others and their views. "The stories we don't tell are the ones we don't look at." Dr. Reed: and if we don't tell them, we lose them for all time.

Why are you drawn to tell historical stories? Sheila: to tell stories that weren't told. Brian: more diverse, nuanced stories. Storytelling tie things together. He plays 4 friends of Lincoln and it's made him more honest. Darwin's helped, I think? Playing Audobon got him into birds. Darci: there's always one kid she knows "hates history" and she can get that kid interested in it. "To change the world for at least one kid." Brian: "Darci, I've met that kid." He's gotten emails from kids who became history teachers. Sheila: "Everything is bringing up more history" (example: yesterday). Dr. Reed: twenty years from now, when people tell stories about this time, will people be angry? (Heck yeah, I say.) Rachel the moderator: "it's part of the grief cycle." Dr. Reed: we need some time in between to reflect. 15-20 years from now, the story will be different. Darci says she sees more character interpretation. Brian talked about chautauquas., he's going to do one IRL (distanced) and virtual on Tuesdays in August. "The future will be the virtual chautauqua."

Notable: Brian lives "in a bubble of time" where they have no cops and no COVID and is in some kind of historical commune? Yeah, sign me up to move there, wherever it is.

In the afternoon I attended the Sacramento Storytellers Guild meeting for the first time. I never did it IRL because it was at a retirement home on 2 p.m. on a Saturday (normally I'd be in some festival by then), but it was nice to see all the folks you run into at other storytelling festivals. There was a story about a giant snake hoax, two stories involving going into caves, some other stuff, but the one that stood out to me the most was Angela James's uh, literal fish story about catching a fish and insisting on keeping it as a a pet even though it kept jumping out of the tank. "I even tried to make a leash for that fish, but it didn't really work." Then she mentions it literally keeps jumping around after her until one day it jumps into a creek and...drowns. (Huh?)

After that I went to Matthew Dicks's latest show, featuring people he'd done a workshop with. I absolutely loved the first story by Steph Rogers, a wedding singer, being at a wedding where the bride gets wine spilled all over her dress and then is sobbing in a ball on the floor for 45 minutes in the bathroom while her mother berates her. Steph tries to help, but just gets dissed by these jerky people and wonders "Is this what I want to do with my life?" Then the groom comes in, picks her up off the floor, takes her back out for the first dance ("At Last") and says this is the best day of his life. AWWWWWWWWWWWWW. May we all end up with people like that someday. At the end someone asks for Steph's card and she is all, "Yes, I am the wedding singer."

Elysha (Matt's wife, hosting) said you should always have a backup dress, and in the chat I was all, "I read the book Dazzle and when a guy spills chili on a girl's dress, she pulls out a backup dress and he then spills wine on it."

There was another story about how a girl got into theater because of a good teacher, there was a dragon skull on someone's wall that disturbed Elysha (I wasn't too impressed), and a guy telling a story about how his brother became a drug dealer and scared him. Matthew Dicks told a story about trying to date a girl when he didn't have anywhere to take her, as he had recently moved in with this born again Christian couple and was rooming with their goat. He did take her food shopping as a date activity and then when he confessed he had nowhere to take her to ah, park, she said she liked him because she liked the couple that had taken him in, and "those people made me cool in the eyes of Christine." Moral of the story: "If the right people love you, you can be appealing to almost anyone." The last one was a girl who went on a date with a fashion-challenged guy and ended up having a great time, but sadly they only went on a few more dates after that.

After that I got together with various Winters folks and we read aloud Sam Spade: The Blood Money Caper. This time Linda did it what I called "Acme Theater Style," i.e. count off by numbers and everyone just read whatever line came up when their number did. So, no getting to create a part, but at least it's a fairly even balance of lines. So that was fun. I feel like the people I know from shows are dropping out of it, though, and it's mostly ah, old timers (i.e. people before my time, might have moved out of town is what I mean by that). Did see Elizabeth and Bridget and Elizabeth's dad, so there's that. Didn't know anyone else beyond them and Linda, but whatever.

I attempted to rehearse reading As You Like It with Shanna afterwards, but then her cat started having a seizure, so that was the end of that.

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