Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Just received the welcome news that I was given a Chalmers Arts Fellowship from the Ontario Arts Council. The grant will fund a year's worth of travel, research, thinking, and storytelling around the theme of whether a new myth is coming to life through the voices of the contemporary storytelling renaissance. There's a Gaelic saying that "every force evolves a form." I'm curious to explore the nature of the force that evolved the form of modern storytelling. The grant will help me travel to Hudson Bay to talk to Pennishish about his Omushkego myth-cycles; to Sao Paulo to talk to Regina Machado, one of the world's great thinkers about story; to British Columbia to spend time with Robert Bringhurst. I'm also hoping to interview Laura Simms, Sean Kane, Ursula LeGuin, Kay Stone, Bruno de la Salle, Ben Haggarty, and other storytellers, scholars, and imaginers. Not quite sure what the fruit of this journey will be - maybe an audio journal, or series of talks/tellings, or essay. 1,001 thanks to the Chalmers family for endowing the fellowship, and to Ontario Arts Council for helping artists undertake new adventures.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Check out the National Post on October 16 to read my gentle revenge on CBC radio. Itah Sadu and I pitched a storytelling show to their new program development committee, but the pilot episode had too many folktales for their taste. Today, Yashinsky strikes back! Link: www.nationalpost.com/opinion/story.html?id=883210
Thursday, October 9, 2008
From October 8 - 10 I'm performing with the great percussion ensemble Nexus at a symposium called Talking Drum, at the University of Toronto. We're doing a mix of material, including A Praise for Listener, set to their mbira piece "Tongues." This praise-poem is from my book Suddenly They Heard Footsteps - Storytelling for the Twenty-first Century, from the chapter titled "Dreaming A New Myth." We're also doing How Heart Came Into the World, set to cow-bell accompaniment, and The Land of Those Who Were Thrown Away, a story from Zimbabwe that Nexus improvises behind. It could be every storyteller's dream to jam with these astonishing musicians. Final performance in this series is Friday, October 10, 7:30, at Walter Hall, Faculty of Music, St. George campus of University of Toronto.
From October 17 - 19 I'll be at the Amsterdam Storytelling Festival (www.storytellingfestival.nl), performing Talking You In with musician/composer Brian Katz. Talking You In is a modern "canta storia" - a poetic text set to music - about a father telling stories to a baby in the neo-natal intensive care unit. We're also doing The Roussalka, a wonderful story by American writer Rebecca Boroson, set to Brian's Jewish-themed improv, and the Japanese story Urashima Taro, also with musical accompaniment. I'm delighted to be able to collaborate with such an exceptional musician. The festival takes place in ships at a wharf in Amsterdam. My Dutch storytelling friends Mia Verbeelen and Ernst Weerstra are involved in planning it. I'm also teaching a workshop called The Red Thread of the Story - Exploring Narrative Suspense for a mix of professional and recreational storytellers.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Two friends from Germany, Martin Ellrodt and Suse Weiss, are both adapting the Telling Bee for use in German schools. The Canadian approach, where children collect stories from parents, step-parents, and grandparents doesn't always work in a society where older people can still be very guarded about their personal history. But Martin and Suse have found innovative ways to turn the students into adept hunters and gatherers of stories. Martin recently sent me a book of stories in German from his first Telling Bee. This idea and program is available to any storyteller who wants to use it. Check out the guidelines on this website, or contact me directly.
I'll be performing at the Fabula Festival in Stockholm, Sweden, September 19 - 21. Check out http://www.fabulafestival.se for details. This festival was founded by Mats Rehnman, a good friend and wonderful storyteller and visual artist. I'll be telling Mister Globus and Laughing Boy, and also sharing the stage for a session called "Emergency Storytelling" with my friend Noa Baum. She is doing some remarkable work with storytelling by Israeli and Palestinian women.
Monday, August 25, 2008
In case you didn't catch it, here's part of an interview I gave to journalist Diane Flacks for the Toronto Star on August 16 ("Storytelling in the neonatal unit"):
For the rest of the interview, see www.thestar.com/article/477212.
For the past 30 years, Dan Yashinsky has travelled all over the world as a storyteller, author, teacher and radio host.
He has learned that "storytelling is not only an entertaining way to pass the time, it is also an art that can mend broken souls." Including his own.
In August 1991, Yashinsky's second child, Jacob, was born with an Apgar score of 2 out of 10. Two is the lowest score you can get in the Apgar measurement of newborn responsiveness and still be alive.
Jacob became a patient in the neonatal intensive care unit. He was limp, barely breathing, white and waxy-looking. Yashinsky describes him as "a scrap of humanity washed up on the soil of the NICU."
Sixteen years later, in a Toronto coffee shop, Yashinsky hands me a CD of his latest piece, Talking You In, a story (with musical accompaniment by Brian Katz) about Jacob's three weeks in the Hospital for Sick Children's neonatal ICU.
On the CD, Yashinsky rightly calls the intensive care experience one of rush and reverie.
After Jacob was born, the doctors immediately rushed him into a recovery room. Yashinsky and his wife, Carol Zavitz, were in shock, but she was able to insist that they name this baby.
Yashinsky explains now, "We wanted everyone to know he is here as part of a family. He has been noticed."
As the chaos whizzed around them, they whispered the name together: Jacob.
Yashinsky also reached out physically. "I felt instinctively that I must make a connection to wherever his soul is. The image in my mind was that he was somewhere out there, real scared and really lost. And even if he died that night, I needed him to have been touched and named."
For the rest of the interview, see www.thestar.com/article/477212.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
In putting together the piece-meal, crazy quilt career of a storyteller, many misadventures can occur. This afternoon I loaded many books into a knapsack, picked up one of my talking sticks, slung my normal shoulder bag over my ... and set off to a school where I was going to do a session for parents. I took the streetcar to the subway, and the subway to the school. I was early. Some puzzled caretakers told me that yes, the school was open that night, but no, they hadn't heard about a special meeting. I went for a coffee at Tim Horton's on Yonge St. north of Lawrence. I scribbled a few notes about the session in my journal. Then hurried back for my session. When I finally found the vice-principal on the second floor of the school, she looked at me and said, "Hi Dan. We're expecting you on Feb. 21!" I hadn't crossed out the first booking when we re-booked, as I discovered when I got home. So back on the subway, streetcar; back through the very snowy streets. Is this a sign? And, if so, what does it signify? Funny enough, none of it made me cross or even impatient. Sometimes "storm fools" arrive before their audiences!