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People Sometimes Say the Nicest Things

March 23, 2019

It’s been two weeks since the “Village by the Sea Storytelling Festival” made it’s debut at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, but the images and feelings of what happened are still very clear.

We began the evening with a delicious pre-concert dinner for tellers, staff, and volunteers – hosted and prepared by MORE volunteers – a great way to meet one another and relax together before the show.


As emcee for the evening, my job – especially initially – was to get the audience ready to hear the stories. But when I walked out on the stage for the first time, it was very clear- this audience didn’t need much: they were READY.



The first teller, Allison Cox, warmed us up with a funny, but telling Mexican folktale, “Cucarachita”. It’s about a fetching little cockroach making her first foray out into the world. She batted her eyelashes and greeted all with a “Hola!” – which the audience echoed. But cucarachita met some bad hombres and this tale can be seen as a cautionary tale about the likes of “El Gato” and “El Lobo”. The tale was delightful and full of fun for an audience like ours. But Allison has used it – to very different effect – in groups of abuse and assault survivors.

JohnThe other job of an emcee is to introduce each of the tellers and give subtle clues about the story or stories that he or she will tell. Introducing John Wasko was easy, weaving together information about his major piece on famed Seattle photograper-ethnographer, Edward C Curtis, and the personal story he was to tell about Alki Beach. One audience member said, “We have actually walked on that shoreline and through the storytelling, we could hear the “hiss” and “swish” of gentle waves on the sand.”


Katherine Gee Perrone cast a spell over the audience with her quiet but powerful telling of the old Scottish tale, “Tamlin”. In Katherine’s version of this classic tale, Tamlin’s rescuer, Janet, was the real heroine: feisty, defiant, and brave. One line in the story echoed far beyond the theater; a mother in the audience with her two teenage girls wrote, “The line, ‘I don’t like being told what to do!’ is being echoed around our house!” At the end, the applause was warm and generous and Katherine came off the stage radiant with it.


After the intermission, Eva Abram took the stage with a vibrant African story and then – surprise! – a boisterous tale from the swamps of the bayous near New Orleans, Eva’s childhood home. Eva is a gentle soul, but she easily slipped on the snarky, duplicitous personality of Crocodile in pursuit of a clueless, hysterical Hen and had the audience laughing and responding.

Then Naomi Baltuck took the stage and gave a rousing rendition of her own story, the“Red Riding Hood Rap”. As the audience clapped along, Red “hoofed it to Granny’s House, clippety-clop!”. But –

“When Red got there, she was really grossed out/ To see a fuzz-faced Granny with a big, long snout!”

The story is found in Naomi’s popular book, “Crazy Gibberish” which features “Story Hour Stretches – from a storyteller’s bag of tricks.” My copy is well-worn; I have used it for dozens of presentations with kids – and adults.

Then Naomi’s husband, Thom Garrard, joined her and they finished the evening with a tandem telling of a lively Ukrainian folk tale.

Thom & Naomi

I knew the audience had enjoyed the evening; I could feel it. So could the tellers. And – of course – that made their performances even better. One said, “I am still over the moon at how well it went!” But it was nice to have that feeling echoed later in emails I received.

“I want to let you know it was a wonderful festival…. The stories were great and so were the tellers. The audience was fully engaged and mesmerized.”

“You have given us a new focus for “old stories” and an appreciation for the talent it takes to bring tales, dreams, and visions to life.”

“I was so impressed with the group you gathered and truly feel this should be an annual event.”

Funny you should say that… so do we… and it just may happen.

storytelling in the world


Why? I’ll tell you why….

February 22, 2019

village by the sea final

Five years ago, I swore…I would never do this again… direct and/or produce a show.

I was standing in the middle of my living room shrieking at the top of my lungs because everything had just gone wrong.

But I caved; why? Because I really wanted to bring these wonderful storytellers/people to Whidbey and let our audiences see and hear how amazing they are. And because WICA (Whidbey Island Center for the Arts) is a perfect venue for a storytelling festival. But then, yesterday, I had another one of those days.

One of the online publicity sites was giving out the wrong data…  I had just lost one of my assistants… There were two frantic emails from people who wanted to attend, but could not find housing… Someone was coming to my house with a new couch, but I wasn’t sure when… I had just finished a lousy rehearsal and the timing was all wrong… And one of the mass emails I had just sent out came back with an error  message I couldn’t read…. ARRRGH!!

Why do we do this to ourselves?? The answer is really very simple: because we have to. Because – if you are dedicated to your craft – you simply cannot just coast when you have a chance to promote and support it.  Period.

So – Whidbey Island’s first storytelling festival will happen. Exactly what will happen, of course, we don’t know – yet. But a week from tomorrow, it will happen. There are still so many things left to do…. I hope you can join us.

VBTS Flyer 2




Learning More….

February 7, 2019

Sometimes, as people gather together after one of my performances, they ask me: Do you ever do workshops? Some want to be better teachers or docents or tour guides. Others want to be able to share family stories with their children or grandchildren. Still others want to create stories that inform or urge action on issues they care about. Now – there is an opportunity to do any one of these things.

Coinciding with the “Village by the Sea Storytelling Festival”, a series of three storytelling workshops will be presented at WICA on Saturday March 2 from 1 – 3 pm – the afternoon before the festival concert. Each workshop is led by an experienced teaching artist. Curious? Check the information below:

Workshop Descriptions

It’s coming….

January 22, 2019

village by the sea final

Don’t these folks look like interesting people? They are; they’re storytellers… and they’re all coming to Whidbey Island in early March to entertain, inform, and inspire you with their stories. This will be Whidbey’s FIRST storytelling festival brought to you by the good people at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts and Whidbey Telecom. Many people here on the island have heard me tell stories. I thought it was high time that they had a chance to hear some of my very talented colleagues spin a tale. Contact WICA (Whidbey Island Center for the Arts) at;  click on “Programs” – then on “Local Artists Series” – then the event for information, tickets, and workshop reservations.


January 6, 2019


Stark and bare…yet brimming with promise

a new year begins….

Once More, With Feeling

November 17, 2018

the wall

Last weekend was such a whirlwind. First – an all day plane ride from Washington (the state) to Washington (the city) to attend the 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Women’s Vietnam Memorial on the National Mall near the Wall.

Then -the next morning – early – a video interview with a production company making a documentary on women in Vietnam. The interviewer and camera crew were young, energetic, highly skilled. They reminded me so much of the “kids” I trained as Peace Corps Volunteers in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the South Pacific. I was so jazzed: just to be with them and watch them work gave me new energy. It made me really want to give them what they needed: a good story. After a LONG interview, I was tired, but wonderfully alive.


Without time to breathe, we were whisked off to a restaurant and a brunch for women who had worked for Army Special Services or the Red Cross (the “Donut Dollies”). The room was crowded, the food was mediocre, but the discovery of old comrades I hadn’t seen in almost fifty years made it all worthwhile.


“Rikki…!!! Do you remember coming to the opening of the club in Vinh Long?” Tiny gray-haired Rikki smiled and looked blankly at me. “Not really….” Then I re-created the picture of her youthful self: small and sassy with straight jet black hair. “You danced with every guy there…remember??” A smile slowly came to her face, “yes… yes, now I remember. I remember that one young kid I danced with… damn, he was good!” And in her eyes and her voice, there was a glimmer of the young hot-shot she once was.  

Then – on a bitterly cold night- we were off to a candlelight ceremony at the Memorial now known affectionately as “The Women’s Statue”. The bronze of the three figures glowed in the floodlights as we waved plastic candles and sang and remembered. Thirty five years ago, Diane Carlson Evans, a young woman who had been a nurse in Vietnam, looked at the statue of the three soldiers near the Wall and wondered – where are the women?


It took ten more years to make that Memorial a reality. Just getting site approval involved four years of work: getting approvals from seven different agencies and five different pieces of legislation through the  Senate and House. At first, the memorial was directed only at nurses, but gradually Diane and her supporters realized that many other women had served in Vietnam and the vision was opened to include them as well. At least 11,000 military women served in Vietnam, but the actual number of civilian women is not known. However, between 1966 – 1972, some 300 – 600 civilians served in Army Special Services – 75% of which were women. I was one of them – serving as a Service Club Director in Can Tho and Vinh Long in the Mekong Delta. And here we were all gathered – military and civilian – in the freezing wind to pay tribute to Diane’s vision and the incredible memorial created by sculptress, Glenna Goodacre. As I circled the statues of the three women, the lights and the speeches and the voices of the crowd faded away. I stared at the figures… and  felt again their pain; exhaustion, and looming despair… and the grit that kept them going. I saw the strength in the taut muscles of their faces and the sinews of their arms as one of the figures cradled a wounded GI. And just as I had done twenty years before, I reached out and touched them – gently. And I was once again honored to be considered one with them.

Wall 9

And then it was Sunday… time to go once again to the Wall, to mingle with the now aging vets and their families, gaze at the roses and the medals and the fading photos of the young men they remember today… and all days.

The Wall4

I chatted with a vet and his wife from New Jersey. Just last month, he found out that a kid he knew really well in high school was killed in Vietnam.  He was searching for his name; I watched his fingers go up and down the panel in a random, confused sweep. Gently, I intervened… “What line is he on, sir?” “Line 26” I counted down with him to Line 26. The name he was searching for was the first in the line. His eyes filled with tears and he began to choke up as his wife patted his arm. Quietly, I left them there … to search for another name. He was my commanding officer at Vinh Long Air Base killed during the Tet Offensive… LTC Bernard David Thompson…from Los Angeles, CA…killed January 28, 1968. I traced my fingers gently over his name as I remembered the man….

And then, we waited in a long line – for fifteen, twenty minutes while the security dogs scanned the hundreds of folding chairs set up for the ceremony. The sun sparkled on the autumn leaves – red and gold – poised to fall soon to the grass below. When I finally found my seat in one of the front rows, I turned to look at the wreath that- with another Special Services “girl” – I would place near the wall. I was so honored to be there; to be in that spot; to do this incredibly simple but profoundly moving task. My mind wandered and I saw images of all the young women I had worked with: Georgeanne, Kay, Sharon, Judy, Christy, Renna… and some whose names I couldn’t remember, but whose faces I could see and voices I could hear. They were all of them echoing in my head. I remember you… and I am here to honor you all… on this day.  

TheWall 7 



October 22, 2018

Pardon the black lines…I couldn’t get rid of them. COME JOIN US!!!!



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