Sat, 20 November 2010
“Twelve Men Went Fishing” is a noodlehead story about the English village of Gotham, which was supposedly inhabited entirely by fools. But the rumor was not entirely deserved – these “fools”, as is often the case, were much wiser than they appeared. In fact, there is a legend that Gotham got its reputation because once upon a time the king was thinking about building a home there, and the residents didn't like that idea because of all the problems it would cause (probably higher taxes, among other things). So they had a plan: when the king came to scope it out, they all behaved as insanely as they could to discourage him from settling among them. And the ruse worked, but it also earned their town a lasting reputation as one big madhouse.
In any case, this is one of the many amusing stories that have come down to us about the place. Nowadays, we are familiar with Gotham as a nickname for New York City, especially since Batman renamed the Big Apple as Gotham City. There's actually a connection with the old English folktales: Washington Irving, who thought Manhattan was inhabited by fools, nicknamed it Gotham in an issue of his magazine The Salmagundi Papers.
We come to you in North Carolina, on our way to South Carolina, after touring New York and New Jersey. Before which we spent autumn in New England, visiting our son Zephyr in Rhode Island (we interview him on this podcast) and performing at Halloween haunted attractions in Rhode Island and Connecticut. And now, like birds, we're heading south for the winter.
Dennis (Narrator, Various Gotham Men) and Kimberly (Various Gotham Men, Horseman)
Mon, 20 September 2010
When you hear the thunder roll across the heavens, you're hearing Thor, the blacksmith of the gods, wield his hammer in Asgard. So said the ancient Scandinavians, and they told of a time when his thunder was stolen by the lord of the giants, an unpleasant fellow named Thrym. Like the Greeks and Romans (who also had blacksmith gods named Hephaestus and Vulcan respectively), the Norse folk acknowledged a hypothetical race of giants who were separate from and often antagonistic to the gods. And in this case, Thrym's thuggish theft of Thor's thrifty hammer threatens to throw a wrench into the thunder. But Thor comes up with a classic and rather comical ruse to get it back. Will he succeed? Tune in and find out.
We come to you from New Jersey, where we recently put in some time volunteering at Cerebral Palsy of North Jersey, assisting the patrons of the center with an art project called “Brush with the Masters”. The idea in this series of projects is to encourage them to create art in the style of certain famous artists. The day we went was Andy Warhol day, and we assisted them in adding color to black and white photographs of themselves, then affixing those photos to posterboard in a repeated series somewhat like Warhol's portrait of the Beatles or a soup can. Great fun – Thor himself couldn't have produced better art than they did.
Dennis (Thor, Thrym, Narrator) and Kimberly (Loki, Freya, Narrator)
Sun, 15 August 2010
Greetings! We're finally back on schedule with our first podcast since May when we were in Reno, about to set out on our summer tour. And now here we are, 3000 miles, dozens of performances and a new rear axle later. We come to you from Philadelphia, the birthplace of the U.S. And the "City of Brotherly Love" Which seems like an appropriate place to present a story about friendship.
“Damon and Pythias” is a Greek legend about two friends who were even closer buddies than Damon and Affleck. It was reported by many ancient authorities as being a true incident that occurred sometime in the 4th Century BCE in Syracuse, during the reign of the tyrant Dionysius the Elder. Regardless of how much truth there may be to the story, it has come to symbolize the ultimate friendship, to such an extent that Shakespeare alluded to it as such in Hamlet.
We offer this tale on the 18th anniversary of our departure from San Francisco and embarking on our extended tour of duty across the U.S. And while our trek hasn't been as ill-fated as that of Pythias, it has had its adventures and misadventures. Here's to the next 18!
Dennis (Narrator, Damon, Herald, Servant) and Kimberly (Pythias, King)
Sat, 15 May 2010
It’s our 100th podcast! And we’re celebrating 22 years of performing. So we thought it was appropriate to bring you the story of “Rip van Winkle”, since he spent 20 years sleeping – which is exactly the opposite of what we and our audiences have been doing.
Long before science fiction writers got their hands on the concept of suspended animation, there was Rip van Winkle, created in 1818 by American author Washington Irving. Actually, created isn’t quite the right word. Irving, who was known to borrow the themes for his classic tales from folktales, did likewise here. His yarn about a man sleeping for a long period of time and then awakening to find the world drastically changed is similar to stories to be found in Germany, China, Japan, Israel and Ireland among other places.
Happy Listening! Dennis (Rip, Villager), Kimberly (Mrs. Van Winkle, Judith, Villager), Zephyr (Narrator, Stranger, Villager)
Fri, 16 April 2010
He may not exactly look like the cock of the walk, but the sparrow is officially the King of the Fowl – at least according to this folktale from India. But he paid a price for the foul behavior he exhibited in acquiring his crown. We present this story with the aid of guest stars Mike and Patricia, birds of a feather who tell us all about the pet cockatoos they’re so proud of and the peacocks that roam around the neighborhood.
We’re in Los Angeles and vicinity, catching up with a whole flock of old friends, some of whom we haven’t seen in years. Thanks to one particular family we know, we were able to become seagulls for a few days, living on their boat at the Long Beach marina. Nothing like having the waves rock you to sleep at night!
One bird that has been on the wing for quite some time now is the eagle, the character in our Zuni story we call “Coyote and Eagle”. We recently had a chance to perform it for a group of storytellers in Phoenix, who put together an evening of story swapping especially so we could participate while we were flying through. Needless to say, our own eagle made quite an impression when she squeezed through a tennis racket. And for a bird’s eye view, it’s hard to top the Sandia Tramway in Albuquerque, the longest aerial tramway in the world. It took us WAAAAAY up to Sandia Peak, which was covered with snow that was being heartily enjoyed by a few late-season skiers.
And now, we’re back in our old aerie of California, where we’ll be exercising our talons – er, talents, for the next few weeks. Hope to catch you at one of our shows!
Happy Listening, Dennis (Narrator, Owl), Kimberly (Mynah), Mike Steele (Eagle), Patricia Pizer (Narrator, Sparrow) Buster Keaton and Nikolai (themselves)
Mon, 15 March 2010
“The Elephant's Child” is a tale from Africa, adapted from Rudyard Kipling's mangled English version in “Just So Stories”. It's one of various and sundry animal fables from various and sundry cultures explaining how various and sundry animals ended up with various and sundry unique physical features.
We come to you from Birmingham, AL., where we are touring to present performances at the Emmet O'Neal Library in the Birmingham suburb of Mountain Brook.
While searching for a geocache in the suburb of Irondale, we stumbled upon the landmark Irondale Cafe, otherwise known as Fried Green Tomatoes. Actress/novelist Fannie Flagg used to eat here as a child – her aunt once owned the place – and it inspired her to write the best-selling novel “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe”, which was made into the popular movie “Fried Green Tomatoes”. Naturally, we had to return for lunch. The options are limited for vegetarians, and as is often the case with Southern cuisine, everything is smothered in grease. But all in all it wasn't bad; authentic Southern cornbread is a delicacy you just can't get anywhere else. And the signature dish? Dennis give the fried green tomatoes a thumb almost completely up, while Kimberly's was more or less horizontal.
Wed, 17 February 2010
“The Frog and the Antelope” is a Native American story from the Kootenai (or Kootenay) tribe about a race between, appropriately enough, a frog and an antelope. It's one of many such race tales from many different races of human being, such as Aesop's “The Tortoise and the Hare”. In this case, however, the race is won by trickery rather than pluck and perseverance, so perhaps it doesn't illustrate very sportsmanlike conduct. On the other hand, the trickery is used to give a braggart his comeuppance.
We chose this tale because at the moment many different kinds of races and athletic contests are taking place in Vancouver, British Columbia for the 2010 Winter Olympics. And guess what? The Kootenai tribe, in addition to being located in Montana and Idaho, also has roots in British Columbia.
We'd love to be in Vancouver now – we loved the city and BC itself when we visited a few years ago – but it's been quite chilly enough where we have been for the past few weeks: the Sunshine State. And on this podcast we tell you about our recent exploration of The Everglades, including an overnight canoe trip to an island just offshore. We speak of it as one of 1000 purported islands in the system; actually the number should have been 10.000 (yes that's TEN thousand)!
We hope you have a gold medal month.
Thanks for listening! Dennis (Frog) and Kimberly (Narrator, Antelope)
Wed, 20 January 2010
“Hans in Luck”, a German tale from the Brothers Grimm, is as loaded with irony as its title character is loaded with material possessions that people would normally consider a blessing, but in his case prove to be burdens. His situation reminds us of our own; having left the stationary lifestyle behind years ago, we ironically feel much richer for not having so much “stuff” to weigh us down.
We present the story with the assistance of guest performers who've also discovered this. They are attendees of the annual Families on the Road (FOTR) rally. (We recorded this podcast in a laundry room at a campground jammed with excited people, which explains the ambient sound – a euphemism for background noise.) It was a very successful event, indeed the largest such gathering ever, with 21 families in attendance.
For the second time, we held the rally at Jetty Park, Port Canaveral, FL. This is an excellent location not only because it's right on the beach (within site of the NASA shuttle launch site) but also because it's right beside the cruise ship terminal, so we could watch the huge cruise ships pull out, including the Disney line. Among the fun activities the campers enjoyed were a relay race on the beach, a tie-dyeing session, a gross science session, a screening of the movie “RV” on an outdoor inflatable screen, a bonfire, and a performance by Act!vated Storytellers.