Activated Stories
Bringing you comedic folktales from somewhere on the road. Act!vated Stories is presented by Act!vated Story Theatre a national touring theatre troupe for children and their families. Join us for a family friendly story and travel tales.

Act!vated Story Theatre brings your family folktales and travel tales. Enjoy the stories!

The Four Puppets is a story from the country traditionally called Burma, but now known as Myanmar. We bring it to you from Dublin, just in time for St. Patrick's Day. Okay, so it's not Dublin in Ireland, but Dublin in California, back in the San Francisco Bay Area where we got our start almost 27 years ago. But this Dublin seems just as serious about St. Patrick's Day as the other one.

Since we last saw you, we performed in Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma. And we visited three fascinating attractions in Arkansas.

The first was the Jerome-Rohwer Interpretative Center in McGehee, a museum preserving the experiences of the thousands of Japanese-Americans who were interned (a fancy word for imprisoned) at the Jerome and Rohwer camps, which stood nearby. Among the prisoners was 5-year-old George Takei, a future star of Star Trek.

Then in North Little Rock, we toured a submarine. That's right, a submarine on the Arkansas River. And equally surprising, it flies a Turkish flag as well as the American flag. You'd be right if you guessed that there's a colorful history there. The USS Razorback was commissioned in World War II and served the U.S. Navy for many years before being sold to Turkey, where it served the Turkish navy for many more years, under the name TCG Muratreis. Now it's the USS Razorback again, and it's back in the U.S., and you can go aboard.

Then we were off to Hurricane River Cave, where we were not content to take the regular tour like normal people, but opted for the 4-hour extreme tour, which involved climbing, crawling through tight spots (if you think a submarine is close quarters, you should try this), wading in a river, and getting cold and covered with clay. We loved it!

Here's hoping you have a month of adventures.

Happy Listening,
Dennis (Ang, Father) and Kimberly (everyone else)

Direct download: The_Four_Puppets.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:44 AM

The Snake and the Frog is a trickster tale from the Island of Andros in the Bahamas. It's similar to many Anansi stories, and for good reason: Anansai the spiderman, according to legend, made his way from Africa to the New World to comfort and inspire slaves. Thus, we have many Anansi stories in the U.S., as well as in these islands just offshore.

We chose this story because we recently returned from a 4-day trip to The Bahamas, visiting the cities of Freeport and Nassau. At Lucaya Marketplace in Freeport, we encountered a colorful character dressed in traditional costume, who told us about the Bahamian festival of Junkanoo (he believed the name to be derived from John Canoe), which unfortunately we'd just missed. It's a time of great revelry celebrating, he told us, freedom, peace, love and other good things. (Or good "tings", as the locals would say.) The dancing is accompanied by percussive music they call Kalik, apparently from the word click.

We also enjoyed a couple of the wonderful beaches for which these islands are noted, including one called Junkanoo. This was in the city of Nassau, which we found a fun and colorful place to stroll around. We were able to watch artisans make and sell their crafts at the famous Straw Market, and visited the curious Nassau Library, which was formerly a jail, and the Queen's Staircase, built by newly freed slaves as a token of thanks.

And we had a wonderful time just being on the cruise ship, enjoying the atmosphere and the entertainment and the great food and the fellow passengers. We're ready to do it again!

Happy Listening,
Dennis (Frog, Goat, Rooster) and Kimberly (Narrator, Snake, Owl)

Direct download: The_Snake_and_the_Frog.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:35 PM

The Soothsayer is a tale from Persia (now Iran) about a poor and somewhat innocent laborer who finds a golden opportunity to advance himself, largely through taking advantage of chance occurrences.  As with The Bremen Town Musicians, his conquest of his adversaries hinges upon the latter overhearing and misunderstanding him. Other popular folktales that depend upon overheard and misunderstood snatches of conversation include The Brave Little Tailor and Rumplestiltskin. And notice that forty seems to be a popular number of thieves in Middle Eastern stories.

We come to you from Miami, where we've just presented programs at the Miami Lakes Library, thanks to a generous grant from Target. We've also been trying to keep ourselves entertained during our time in Florida, with such desperate measures as manatee watching, going to Universal Studios to catch the new Harry Potter attraction Diagon Alley, and trying out a wild new water sport called flyboarding.

Happy Listening,
Dennis (Narrator, Ahmed, Guard, King, Thief Ringleader) and Kimberly (Narrator, Raha, Wealthy Woman, Royal Soothsayer, King's Attendant, Servant Thief, Second Thief)

Direct download: The_Soothsayer.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:00 AM

The Legend Of Slappy Hooper is an American tall tale, suitable to accompany our belated wish that you had a great observance of the American holiday Thanksgiving. You will notice certain similarities to better known American tall tales like Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill and Old Stormalong – all of whom were also men of gigantic stature and extraordinary abilities.

This tall tale, however, is of more recent vintage, apparently having originated sometime in the early Twentieth Century. It first appeared in print in 1946, in a book written by folklorist/ novelist Jack Conroy, who also wrote about (and possibly embellished) two other tall tales. His book was illustrated by Arna Bontemps. The work of Conroy and Bontemps had been funded several years earlier by the federal government, thanks to the Works Progress Administration, or WPA (later renamed the Works Projects Administration), a program designed to put Americans back to work after The (Not So) Great Depression. The WPA provided jobs in a wide variety of fields, from construction to the arts.

The story of Slappy Hooper was retold more recently (1993) in another picture book by Aaron Shepard, who added a few twists of his own devising.  Among these was the florist episode, which we have borrowed with a tip of the hat to Mr. Shepard.

We come to you from Greenville, SC, having just completed a weeklong residency at a school in Summerville, SC. Before that, we drove down from Massachusetts and along the way we dropped in at an amazing attraction in Charlotte, NC called Exit Strategy. In short, we have begun our winter migration southward.

Happy Listening,
Dennis (Slappy, Narrator, Bystander 1, Jim Dandy, Uncle, Mayor) and Kimberly (Narrator, Baker, Florist, Aunt, Bystander 2)

Direct download: Slappy_Hooper.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:13 PM

A classic Greek legend/ myth about one of the most horrifying creatures of all time, arriving just in time for the haunting season. She was defeated by a hero who learned to "think outside the box" before that expression was even trendy.

We come to you from Foxboro, MA, which has more going for it than the New England Patriots. For one thing, it's the home of the incredibly cool interactive adventure 5 Wits, where our son Zephyr works. And this year, it;s the home of Beelzebub's CarnEvil, the Halloween attraction he's dreamed of opening since he was 9 years old. It's finally up and running and scaring the wits out of people.

Happy and Haunted Listening,
Dennis (Narrator, King, Perseus, Guest 1, Graeae 2) and Kimberly (Narrator, Medusa, Guest 2, Guest 3, Graeae 1, Graeae 3)

Direct download: Perseus_and_Medusa.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:49 PM

From Scotland comes The Two Sisters and the Hag, one of many versions of this story found in many countries, contrasting how good behavior is rewarded and how bad behavior is punished. We come to you from New Rochelle, NY, site of our most recent performances. We took some time to spend a day strolling in New York City, seeing the new memorial at the World Trade Center and the High Line, a former elevated train track that has now been converted into a city park. Before that, we were in Newport, Rhode Island, where we soared high over the water at Island Style Parasailing, the first time we've ever tried sky-skiing. We hope it won't be the last. And we've spent a great deal of time during the past month doing volunteer work for our son Zephyr, a former member of our theatrical troupe. who is putting the final touches on a haunted house he is opening in Foxboro, MA at the Orpheum Theatre. This fulfills a dream (read: obsession) he's had since he was nine. Happy Listening,
Dennis (Narrator, Well, Tree, Hag) and Kimberly (Narrator, Hannah 1, Hannah 2, Cow, Bag Of Gold)

Direct download: The_Two_Sisters_and_the_Hag.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:25 PM

The Monkey's Heart is a little fable from India about a crocodile that tries to trick a monkey into supplying its heart for a strange snack. There is a similar story in China in which a dragon rather than a crocodile is the villain.

We come to you from North Kingstown, RI. We recently wrapped up our summer tour, and now we'll be in New England for the next month or so. 

We recently had an opportunity to do some hiking and climbing on the amazing rock formations in Purgatory Chasm State Park in Sutton, Massachusetts. It's like having a naturally designed playground and rock climbing gym.

And we paid another visit to Dr. Seuss Memorial Sculpture Garden in Springfield, MA, which was the Good Doctor's hometown and inspired the imagery in many of his books. The sculptor who designed this amazingly realistic tribute happened to be Dr. Seuss' stepdaughter. 

Happy listening (and watch out for the oobleck!)

Dennis (Mr. Crocodile, Hunter, Narrator) and Kimberly (Mrs. Crocodile, Vendor, Snake, Monkey, Narrator)

Direct download: The_Monkeys_Heart.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:25 PM

"The Precious Cow" is a little-known fable from Africa about the importance of valuing strong family ties above material wealth.  As we point out, it offers a bit of a twist to the "rule of three", a common characteristic of many popular folktales.

We come to you from Chapel Hill, NC, having just completed a return engagement at the High Point Library. Among our audiences there were some regular podcast listeners, the delightful Singleton family, so we decided to let them say howdy on the next podcast – namely, this one.

We also discuss our adventures climbing Pilot Mountain in North Carolina, and zip lining in North Carolina and Arkansas.

Happy Listening,
Dennis (Father, Oldest Son, Middle Son) and Kimberly (Narrator, Youngest Son, Cow)

Direct download: The_Precious_Cow.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:42 PM

The Golden Spinning Wheel is a story from the country formerly known as Bohemia, and then Czechoslovakia, and now The Czech Republic. The story is the subject of a picture book by Lisl Weil in which musical notes are printed across the page along with illustrations of the story. The musical notes are from a piece of music inspired by the story, composed by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904), who was fascinated by the folklore and folk music of his country, and infused much of his music with the flavor of both. He did the same for American folk music after spending 3 years here, and his masterpiece, the symphony called "From the New World", has been featured in Hollywood westerns. (The snippet of his music we use during the spinning wheel scene is from "Songs My Mother Taught Me".)

We come to you from Heber Springs, AR, after making our annual trek across the country to begin our summer tour – which commenced this time in Fayetteville, AR. We had time along the way to see some interesting sights, including the Omaha Zoo, the Buffalo National River in Arkansas and Bluff Dwellers Cavern in Missouri. Are we having fun yet? Czech!

Happy Listening,
Dennis (Narrator, King, Dwarf, Guard) and Kimberly (Narrator, Dornischka, Stepmother, Stepsister)

Direct download: The_Golden_Spinning_Wheel.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:23 PM

"The Woman Who Flummoxed the Fairies" from Scotland is a sort of trickster tale, a type of story in which a seemingly helpless individual triumphs by his (or in this case her) wits. It's also a cumulative story, meaning that it involves repetition, as new elements are added to the plot – somewhat like baking a cake, as our heroine does.

We come to you from Reno Nevada, our annual pit stop where we put an old show into storage and whip up a new one in our theatrical kitchen. We think of the month of May as an excuse for Kimberly to sew new costumes and Dennis to write new scripts and music. We hope you can sample the end result of our recipes in the near future.

Happy Listening,
Dennis (Narrator, Fair Judge, Fairy King) and Kimberly (Margaret, Tea Kettle, Cat, Dog, Baby, Narrator)

Direct download: The_Woman_Who_Flummoxed_the_Fairies.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:13 PM