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 Three Heirs

The Three Heirs is a tale from Germany, in the tradition of worldwide sibling rivalry yarns. As usual in these stories, the youngest brother gets the best of his older siblings; even though they are older, bigger and stronger, and consider him a simpleton, he triumphs with his honesty and wits. Compare the Russian story The Flying Ship and the Fool of the World and the Hispanic tale Juan Bobo. The latter even involves a door and a tree like the present story.

We come to you from Reno, Nevada, where we are in the midst of putting together our new production, Tales Afoot, which opens next month at libraries in Arkansas. The four stories included in this production are The Tortoise and the Hare, The Gingerbread Man, Racing the Troll, and Old Stormalong Races the Steamship.

We tell you more about out trip to Europe, this time discussing Vienna and Berlin. Vienna is home of one of the world’s greatest opera houses, one of the world’s tallest churches, and quite simply the world’s best chocolate cake (at Sacher Café). It also features the Stock im Eisen, a tree dating back to about 1400, full of nails that people once drove into it for good luck.  And oh yes, there are plenty of horse-drawn carriages around.

Berlin is the most modern city we visited in Europe, as so much of the old Berlin was destroyed in World War II.  We examined artwork on the remaining portions of the Berlin Wall and took our picture at Checkpoint Charlie, a legendary entry and exit point where the wall once stood. And we also saw many Buddy Bears, those distinctive fiberglass sculptures promoting peace.

We hope to catch you at a show this summer.

Happy Listening,
Dennis (Father, Broderick, Farmer 1, Farmer 2, and Goblin 1) and Kimberly (Narrator, Peter, Hans, Goblin 2)

Direct download: The_Three_Heirs.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:25pm EDT

The Crab Prince

The Crab Prince is a little-known story from Venice that has many similarities to the better-known Frog Prince. Like that story, it makes use of two themes common to many folktales: transformation of humans into animals (a tradition dating back at least to the Odyssey, in which Circe transforms men into swine) and the power of love to overcome evil -- i.e., break a curse. This includes Sleeping Beauty, among others.

We come to you from Sacramento, California, after wrapping up two very busy weeks in our old stomping grounds of the San Francisco Bay Area and just beyond, doing shows and workshops at schools and libraries every day.

We continue our account of our recent trip to Europe, with some details of Pompeii, an ancient city devastated by a volcano in the year 79; Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance; and Venice, the waterbound city where our story originated.

We're getting ready to head to Washington and Idaho for the final performances of our current production, and then we'll head to Reno to finish getting our new production together. Looking forward to bringing our new stories to a venue near you.

Happy Listening,
Dennis (Fisherman, King, Beggar, Crab Prince) and Kimberly (Narrator, Griselda, Fairy Princess)

Direct download: The_Crab_Prince.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:23pm EDT

The King's Ring

The King’s Ring is a story from Italy, which we’re not coming to you from, but would have been a couple of months ago. So before telling you the story, we’re telling you about half of our time in Italy (we’ll do the other half next time). This includes Pisa, with its famous leaning tower, Rome with its Forum and Colosseum and many other ruins, and Cinque Terra, a set of 5 colorful little seaside villages dating back about 1000 years.

In the story we meet a King who has lost his ring. A peasant posing as an astrologer comes to the rescue, but not in the manner you might expect.

We come to you from Los Angeles, where we’re meeting up with old friends (meaning friends we’ve known a long time, not friends who have advanced in years) and getting back on track after an accident that destroyed our old trailer. We have a new trailer, and we’re back on the road.

In Los Angeles, we have some performances at schools and a two-day theatrical residency at the Asian Youth Center, sponsored by International Paper. Then we’re headed north to San Francisco for several public performances at libraries. We hope to see you somewhere along the way.

Happy Listening,
Dennis (Herald, Bystander, Antonio, Servant 2) and Kimberly (Narrator, King, Servant 1, Servant 3)

Upcoming Shows this April in the San Francisco Bay area - You are invited to free children's theatre at local libraries.

Direct download: The_Kings_Ring.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:30pm EDT

The Quackling

The Quackling, from France, is an odd fable in which not only is the main character a talking animal, but it's taken for granted that inanimate objects can talk as well. It involves quite a suspension of disbelief, even to the point that in the original story there is no explanation given for why the duck doesn't just fly or swim to solve his problems. This story is of the type in which the main character makes clever use of what appear to be useless objects in order to get out of a jam, and win fame and fortune. This motif occurs not only in folktales, but also in other types of fiction. As we mention, it was used with a great deal of originality in the science fiction film Paycheck. This is yet another illustration of how even the most inventive modern stories are derived from folktales many centuries old.

We come to you from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, having just driven from Atlanta, where we landed after a monthlong tour of Europe. This included 6 days in Paris, where we not only visited the Eiffel Tower, but climbed it. We also toured the magnificent Palace Of Versailles, former home to royalty, luxury and historic events (it was built in the 17th Century, not the 18th as we say in the podcast). We went underneath the city streets in the Paris Catacombs, which are many miles of tunnels that have served as an ossiary (a place where bones are stored) for centuries. We visited a museum of musical instruments, viewing thousands of old, modern, curious and wonderful. And we toured the legendary Notre Dame Cathedral, which has been wowing people for 800 years.

Next month, Italy.

Happy listening,
Dennis (Narrator, The River, The Hive, King, Citizen 2) and Kimberly (Quackling, The Ladder, Citizen 1

Direct download: The_Quackling.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:21pm EDT

The Gifts Of Wali Dad

It isn’t really a holiday story, but The Gifts Of Wali Dad from India (or is it Pakistan?) seems appropriate for the occasion, with all of its generous gift-giving. Collected by famed folklorist Andrew Lang, who heard it from a British army officer stationed in the Punjab (which was later split between India and Pakistan) who in turn heard it from a native of the region, it seems to be an absurdist cautionary tale about the consequences of being too extravagant. See if you can spot the reference to Cinderella and the (more subtle) reference to Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

We’re currently in Greenville, SC, where we’ve been selling Christmas trees as a fundraiser. We’re getting ready to make our way back west as we do at about this time every year. But first we have an exciting little detour that we’ll be telling you about later. Stay tuned.

Happy Listening,
Dennis (Wali Dad, King, First Servant) and Kimberly (Narrator, Jeweler, Messenger, Queen, Peri, Second Servant)

Direct download: The_Gifts_Of_Wali_Dad.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:28pm EDT

The Troll and the Shoes

The Troll and the Shoes is one of those stories about racing in which (as in The Tortoise and the Hare) the hero wins by means of some skill besides sheer speed -- i.e., determination, imagination, knowledge, and/or (as in the present case) trickery. This will be one of the stores we will be presenting next summer at libraries for the summer reading theme "Ready, Set, Read."

We come to you from Bowie, MD., having just wound up our fall stint in New England, and now beginning to migrate south for the winter. We were able to attend and perform at the New England Library Association's annual conference (this time in Manchester, NH).

On the way south, we were able to catch up with a friend who is now one of the crew for the Kalmar Nyckel, a replica of a Seventeenth Century Dutch merchant vessel. We were able to go on board and examine the incredible workmanship of the vessel up close.

We also went into New York City, and saw not one but two Broadway musicals in one day. The second was Matilda (based on the Roald Dahl book), which was merely good. The first was Allegiance, which was absolutely fantastic. A comic/tragic/poignant story about the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, it featured excellent songs and choreography presented by an outstanding cast. Among them, playing two roles, was George Takei, best known for the original Star Trek series. With as much theatre as we've been exposed to, we're difficult to impress. This show really floored us.

Happy Listening,
Dennis (Narrator, Troll) and Kimberly (Greta, Rita)

Direct download: The_Troll_and_the_Shoes.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:46am EDT

The Two Storks

The Two Storks is a transformation-into-an-animal yarn from what is now Iraq, though it hasn’t always been called that. It takes place in the city of Baghdad, which has been called that for just about as long as anyone can remember. Like certain other tales, including Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, it features a plot complication in the form of a magic spell that the person casting it is unable to reverse.

We come to you from Nickerson State Park on beautiful Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where we’ve been catching up on our biking. We’ve ridden the entire Cape Cod Rail Trail (22 miles) roundtrip, which means at least 44 miles, plus several more miles in side trips. We’ve finally concluded our summer season, our second busiest ever, and picked up a late addition of two performances at the Pawtucket Arts Festival in Rhode Island.

We’ve also managed to make it into Boston a couple of times, including an attendance of the short film session of the Boston Film Festival. One of the films we saw, A Man Wakes Up, was a hilarious film without dialogue, written by and starring Amos Glick, who happens to be one of our former cast members, way back when we were still based in San Francisco about a million years ago. He didn’t know we were coming, and the look on his face was priceless when he spotted us in the lobby and slowly figured out who we were. Just goes to show you: you’d better watch out, because you never know when we may pop in.

Happy Listening,
Dennis (Prince, Omar, Guard) and Kimberly (Narrator, Adviser, Wizard, Princess)


Direct download: The_Two_Storks.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:14pm EDT

Vasalisa and Baba Yaga

Vasalisa and Baba Yaga brings together two characters from Russian folklore who each appear in several other stories. Vasalisa is a sort of Russian Cinderella/ Hansel and Gretel, and Baba Yaga is the nasty old witch/ogre who lives in the deep dark forest and eats bad children.

We come to you from Dedham, Massachusetts (a suburb of Boston), where we just performed for the summer reading program. One of the stories we performed was Davy Crockett, which was appropriate, since we performed on August 17, which was David (Davy) Crockett's birthday. Three more performances after that, and our busy summer is a wrap.

A big thank you to a family of longtime podcast listeners who traveled a great distance and even got a hotel room so they could see us perform in Williamsport, PA. It really made our day.

Happy Listening,
Dennis (Narrator, Stepmother, Kookla) and Kimberly (Vasalisa, Mother, Baba Yaga)

Direct download: Vasalisa.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:02am EDT

The Fairy Palace

The Fairy Palace, a story from China, is one of those quest stories about going on a trek to retrieve or obtain something of great value. It also features another common motif: someone with extraordinary skill in weaving, spinning, or sewing. And it really does involve fairies. And a palace. In our case, it also contains a few references to other stories, including Jack and the Beanstalk, The Emperor's New Clothes, Harry Potter, and the film Casablanca.

We come to you from Delaware Seashore State Park, as we take a rare 4-day break in the middle of this, our second-busiest summer ever. We're wrapping up our July appearances at 33 Delaware libraries and 5 Maryland libraries, before going on to New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

On the way out here from Arkansas, we were able to stop at a log cabin in Tennessee that we've mentioned many times over the years in our popular story about the legendary hero who was born there: David ("Davy") Crockett. It looked very much as we'd pictured it, only more so. It really is right beside the Nolichucky River, which really does exist.

We then spent Independence Day at Kiptopeke State Park on Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, hiking and kayaking and exploring the terrain in quest of something else that rhymes with those two things – a futile quest since we don't have bikes at the moment. But we did discover a fleet of concrete ships (we'll pause for a moment while that sinks in) that served during World War II when steel was hard to come by. Evidently they worked okay, because they're still afloat now, just waiting for double-takes.

We've also been on a mission to put our feet on almost every board on almost every boardwalk on the East Coast, including those in Ocean City MD, Rehoboth Beach DE, and Bethany Beach DE. We especially enjoyed Ocean City because of Trimper's Rides, an old-fashioned amusement arcade that's been a fixture since before your grandfather was a grandfather.

We hope the rest of your summer is as charming and memorable as a boardwalk (not a bored walk).

Happy Listening,
Dennis (Merchant, Son, Passerby, Second Fairy, Third Fairy) and Kimberly (Narrator, Mother, Old Woman, First Fairy)

Direct download: The_Fairy_Palace.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:25pm EDT

The Tortoise and the Hare

The summer is racing along at a rabbit's pace, so it's a good time to bring you "The Tortoise and the Hare", popularized by the Greek slave Aesop, who told a great many fabulous fables. In later centuries, many similar stories sprang up in many cultures around the world. This is a sort of sneak preview of the story for our audiences, as next summer we'll be unveiling a stage version of the tale that will incorporate some of the elements we've put into this podcast. By the way, do you recognize the references to other stories and songs we sneak into this story? (If you don't see the answers below.)

We come to you from a sizzling Hot Springs, Arkansas, where we're delighted to be performing at the library once again. It's a pretty busy month, but since we have much more free time this month than we will have next month, we've been trying to play tourist while we can. We have seen dinosaur footprints in New Mexico, explored a cave and hiking trail near a waterfall in Oklahoma, and went swimming in crystal clear water in Blanchard Springs, Arkansas.

And now the marathon summer is officially underway! Hope to see you in one of our pit stops.

Happy Listening,
Dennis (Narrator, Tortoise, Hare 2, Girl) and Kimberly (Hare, Hare 3) 

(ANSWERS: The Wizard Of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, The Tar Baby, Bfer Rabbit and the Briar Patch; and the songs "The Battle Of New Orleans", "The Caisson Song" and "Into The Woods".)

Direct download: The_Tortoise_and_the_Hare.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:48pm EDT