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“Revels” in New Hampshire

October 27, 2015

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In the continental US, New Hampshire is about as far from Whidbey Island as you can get.  As such, it’s relatively easy for plane reservations from one to the other to get all snarled up. And they did: it took ten extra hours, but I finally landed in New London!

I was there to appear in a “Revels North” production – music, dance, and storytelling celebrating the fall season. Since 1971, “Revels” has created annual celebrations of the seasons in cities across the US. This particular celebration had a Scottish theme.

To prepare, I had wallowed – happily – in Scottish stories for weeks. I pestered librarians and waded through piles of books. There were so many stories – and most of them were good. As I churned along, I wondered once again which part of this work is better: the research and preparation for a telling – or the actual performance. Then came the devilish business of choosing the right ones. I tried a number of criteria; none of them worked. So, I went back to one I have used ever since I began storytelling over twenty years ago: tell stories you LOVE.

After a short prelude on the fiddle, a bag-piper “called us in” –  galvanizing the audience, getting them ready to listen. Then, a woman in costume sang and strummed a lovely old ballad – a beautiful introduction to storytelling!  I began with a short personal story, then a “cottage tale” – for the young ones sprawled out on the floor in front of me. Initially, their faces were skeptical, a usual reaction, especially in an all ages audience. For some reason, kids are less willing to suspend disbelief when their families are there. But they came around, smiling and laughing – and for some, the “lightbulb” went off as they recognized the familiar theme of the tale. Following that, I told a long and very old tale about a young girl’s successful attempt to rescue her child – who had been stolen by the fairies. In the course of the story, the girl is transformed – by the love of her baby – from a weak and helpless child into a strong and clever young woman. That transformation is timeless and universal – and the audience got it. The weeks of preparation and rehearsal had paid off.

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After the performance, it was off to a lovely dinner with a cousin and his family – and to bed! After a ten hour delay, a six hour plane ride, and a performance, I was exhausted.

The next morning I began to reap the side benefits of being in New England in the autumn: the incredible fall foliage. As I walked along Pleasant Lake near the small town of Elkins, I could not stop snapping. Every turn, every bend in the road brought  stunning new images. Even the natives said that this year was exceptional. The combination of sun and leaves and rocks and water was intoxicating.

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