Talk Story ‘NOT- CAMP’ Tour 2013 Commentary
A NARRATIVE BY JEFF GERE
Seven Storytellers convened and performed throughout Oahu over a long week (July 18-23 +). It was a blast, but EXHAUSTING! The storytellers were: Jay Menes (Manila); 3 of Japan’s most adventurous storytellers: Tomoko Sugano, Masako Sueyoshi, & Toshiko Noda (affectionately called ToMaTo as a cluster; also ToToMa and MaToTo ) ; Anne Glover (Victoria, Canada), San Francisco’s Linda Yemoto (3rd year), and Anne Shimojima (Chicago. Anne began this visit to Oahu with a ceremony honoring her mother by returning her ashes to the sea.) There were 4 languages and two ‘homes’ (mine housed the two Annes, Jay, & Linda, Dominique & I) and the 3 ToMaTo stayed in a Waikiki hotel. Yes, some complicated logistics were made more complicated by ongoing developments that a) my father suddenly required an 8 hour open heart operation (reported to me by a ‘girlfriend’ I’d never heard of… he’s recovering well now thank you), b) two car mishaps, and c) my daughter took 4 days to deliver our first grandchild, Ian (both are now fine). Phew!
Let’s take it day by day in a few notes here:
A QUICK HISTORY: I decided it would be fun to host a storytelling camp (improving on the Waikiki Talk Story Conference in 2009). I inhabited the City’s Kualoa Camp on the edge of the sea, with a kitchen and big dining tents, for 2 years in July (2011 & 2012, doubled attendance 2nd year) and was slated for a 3rd when the City yanked permission to use Kualoa Camp (no explanation at all.) YIKES! All these storytellers had volunteered to come! I found Camp Paumalu in the North Shore mountains, but nobody signed up! On July 4th I created a new NOT CAMP series of events: forget a ‘Camp’, we’ll move around, do public shows, hold our own workshops for each other, and go on field trips to places I want to share with them. So that’s what we did! Here we go…
ANNE SHIMOJIMA did two library shows on MAUI 12:30 Kahului Library, 3:00 Makawao Library- loved Makawao and had crowds for both! Linda Yemoto arrived that afternoon after my morning Summer Fun shows, and we met Dominique for a swim at Waimanalo. While they went to Costco (and had a tire blow-out on the way home) I pitched a tent for Jay in our back yard and fetched him from the airport. The next day they pitched another tent for Anne Glover.
I took Linda Yemoto (naturalist storyteller) for an interview with Chris Vandercook at Hawaii Public Radio. Highlight: talking about putting a grasshopper into a web and watching with kids as the spider sucked out its guts! [Just to be technically clear, the spider spits digestive juices into the grasshopper, then sucks EVERYTHING out – Linda].
Then to work! I picked up ToMaTo at the hotel in time for dinner with Dominique, Jay, Linda, and Anne. Caroline Davis (Camp cook in earlier years) made a wonderful meal, eaten outside under our orange tree in the dusky light, and there was the giving of silk, yarn, and goofy lei as a welcome. Inside later, we all reviewed the full (too full?) schedule with lots of asides & laughter. Gere fetched Glover to end the dinner meeting. NOTE: I learned it is rare for Japanese to entertain in their home.
I took a jet-lagged Anne Glover to an interview with Chris Vandrcook at Hawaii Public Radio. Once he saw her make a dog out of string and pull it across the lines to whisper in her ear we knew it was going to be a fun 7 minutes!
STORYTELLING WORKSHOP @ KALAMA BEACH PARK (Kailua on beach) 1-5pm After eating lunch (and welcoming guests MaryJo and Jackie) Anne Shimojima got us all up and into a story she told. Wow! Seeing everyone take on the various roles in Anne’s story was hilarious. Masako, Tomoko, & Toshiko introduced us to their Yamamba tale, “the Three Protective Charms” (all three perform), and we shared opinions. We also went swimming.
In the Thai Restaurant, my cell phone rang. ‘Carol’, a woman from my Dad’s church in LA, explained that my Dad’s routine heart exam had gotten serious- he’s having an 8 hour open heart surgery to fix a valve the next day. They won’t let him leave the hospital. … and my phone died. #@!~?*&^
TALK STORY SUMMIT @ Hawaii Pacific University, Windward side, Loo Theater 7:30-9pm, $15 I scurried off to HPU ahead of the rest finishing dinner: Ron Darby and Steven Katz were setting up video as agreed (video shared for common use). Janine Myers happily hosted us all. Soon the others arrived and the little black box theater filled up with a nice crowd. Karen Hackler came with a gift- a shirt from her husband Jeff (I’d admired it once long ago.) Kilohana Silve started us off, ToMaTo (all 3) did the Yamamba tale shared in the workshop, all tellers took a turn. I finished by announcing my father’s imminent surgery (with tears) and stories. I asked the audience to exhale, sending him some good mojo. We took a few photos, I excused myself, plugged in the phone at home and called Carol for details.
TOUR of MANOA HERITAGE CENTER & HULA lesson We arrived by 10:30am (with guest Serina) for an hour walking through the Garden, as Kilohana Silve shared Hawaiian and the Cooke Family histories, told us of the heiau there, and the plants. I was basically on my phone talking with family. Then Kilohana gave us a hula lesson (with student Ilima) and served us lunch! How fine is that!
Caroline helped shuttle us back and forth (horrible traffic) to and from Manoa (saving Jeff a drive). Thanks! The poor woman had almost no time at home to shower for dinner before she was back in traffic to pick up our 3 ToMaTos in Waikiki hotel for a Chinatown dinner!
HIKE MANOA FALLS We have learned that Hawaii hikes are sometimes taxing for visitors, but this group did fine, even on the muddy bamboo section. The falls were awesome, with locals creating stone pillars of balance in the mists. Nature!
After a rare ‘break’, we convened in Chinatown’s ‘Little Village’ Restaurant for a meal and walk to Ong King.
DARK & DISTURBING STORY SLAM @ Ong King Art Center (184 King St. upstairs near River St.) 8-11pm, $5 donation Oh, there were 19 tales! We took turns telling tales until midnight! Most of our group told, along with Jackie & Mary Jo from the workshop, Vicky Dworkin (solo and in a trio tell with Jeff and Anne Shimojima of that bloody folktale, Mr. Fox) and our hostess Shain Miller also told. Yeah, the many disturbing tales were so dark that none of the photos survived!
Many emails to family about Dad, and phone calls all morning. He seems to be fine, too early to tell. Carol is great!
PRINCE LOT HULA FESTIVAL I thought this would be fun, but it was hot and crowded, and the Royal Hawaiian Band (not hula) began almost as soon as we showed up. So we ate and sweated and it took a toll on our little group (Anne, Linda, Jay, Jeff & Dominique) Both the Japanese & Anne Shimojima (who ate lunch with relatives) joined us at the Museum. And my daughter called- she is going into labor!
WRAP YOUR TTONGUE AROUND THIS @ Honolulu Museum, 1:30-4:30, $10 admission to museum) Visual & Spoken Word: Storytellers select images from exhibits and then caravan through the Museum visiting the selected art & telling tales. Public invited. After a confusing start, about 10 extra people found us for this unique tour (our number kept growing, including videographer Ron Darby) as we snaked through the Museum to see art chosen by the tellers for a tale.
Jeff- Pele tale, Linda- Native American, Anne Shimojima- Chinese Mirror, Masako & Susie Roth (stepped in as performer)- a bilingual spider tale; Jay Menes- in the India section, then a long interactive game with the masks, stories by Jeff and Tomoko in the Asian section, and Anne Glover’s string tale of the Wise Rabbit beside the Asian Lion to end. What a great way to see a museum!
MidSUMMER NIGHT’s GLEEM @ Foster Botanical Garden (downtown Honolulu), 6-9pm, $10 at gate Storytellers (whole group) share stories in the upper meadow and in a tent near the front gate, adding to this gigantic public arts celebration throughout the gardens. 5-6,000 attend annually. After managing to eat something, we started performing at two sites at once as the sun set. The upper meadow had a huge crowd and a horrible PA: not a quality setting, with some people sorta listening…maybe. The other tent site was more intimate.
Once night fell we congealed around the tent venue with one light mounted on the tent’s roof (and dry mats to sit on.) this lighting made a cozy focused setting for some great storytelling as crowds ambled past and distant clanging Lion Dances punctuated the general din. We all took a turn or two, including Vicky Dworkin. It was a long day and long night. We later had people attend events based on that evening (I gave out 1/4 sheet fliers.) We slept well.
Dad seems to be bouncing back! They took a few tubes out already, he’s sitting up. My brother has arrived from Ireland to be by his side (with Carol), a huge relief.
Anne Glover decided to stay in town for a Ukulele Festival in Kapiolani Park with Mary Jo. Jay (now our designated photographer) with 3 ToMaTos, Anne Shimojima, Linda Yemoto and drivers Jeff & Dominique started toward the North Shore.
FIRST STOP: BARBARA KAWAKAMI Barbara is an authority on Hawaii’s Picture Brides- she did interviews with the last of the Picture Brides in 1980s. We stopped by to share some time. Barbara is 92 and a bit frail. She resists home visits, but on this special occasion, she welcomed us with sweets and talked story about those Issei women for an hour, constantly pulling out folders of photos to illustrate those lives and times. It was a wonderfully memorable visit.
SECOND STOP: BIRTHING STONES We sat in the shade of the eucalyptus trees (introduced species) as Jeff talked a bit on the historical significance of this spot, the ‘belly-button’ of the island with the mountains lining up as a silhouette of a pregnant lady. Also tales of WWII & Kole Kole Pass.
THIRD STOP: HALEIWA ARTS FESTIVAL The traffic approaching Haleiwa at mid-day was so thick we ducked the line, ate at Killer Tacos, and went to the Sugar Mill (the five tellers organized their show as Dominique, Jeff & Jay went swimming.)
Three female storytellers from Japan: Masako Sueyoshi, Toshiko Noda, & Tomoko Sugano and two professional Japanese-American women storytellers from the mainland: Linda Yemoto (SF, Calif.) & Anne Shimojima (Chicago, Ill.) talk story in the Temple’s gorgeous gold-guilded sanctuary. Reception/refreshments after.
This was a truly great setting, both for the simple plantation design, and the magnificent alter. Using that golden alter for a stage, our 5 women tellers pulled together a really great show. It alternated between Japanese solo, duet, and a group Kamishibai (story with pictures), and English tells (Linda & Anne.) Linda & Masako even did a bilingual tell of the same story… every act was a fresh event! The 90 minutes flew by! After the show, the 40ish in attendance enjoyed fellowship (Karen Hackler came again) and treats in the community hall below the sanctuary. We all stood on the lawn watching the moon rise and the sunset surrounded the
plantation camp with a warm glow… we just keep hesitating our departure! I thought later, “this is what happy contentment feels like.” Wonderful! Deep thanks to Barbara Richie, who really really helped! She got an article in the North Shore News, made a flier, passed it out/ put it up and spread the word, got a crew of volunteers and hosted he reception with pupus. Mahalo to those volunteers, and the Temple’s Don Matsumoto & Bruce Shimada, who graciously hosted the tellers and community! Let’s do it again!
I dropped Jay Menes at the Philippino Community Center on my way to work in Kapolei. Jay did a Skype TV interview for a Filippino TV show and later we picked up the ToMaTo 3 in Waikiki and drove on to Kailua. Too much driving for Jeff!
STORYTELLING WORKSHOPS Session #2 @ KALAMA BEACH PARK (Kailua) 1-5pm After lunch (Mary Jo & Vicky joined us and Kilohana for a short time) Jay told a tale, Jeff and Masako compared notes on a few Japanese folktales (Man with Wen and told Yamamba as a duet that night), Tomoko premiered her Obake kamishibai for us (repeated that night.) Anne Glover made us stretch our minds, teaching us to make & interpret accessible string shapes, then in duets, we added the shapes together into a sequence to create a simple story (which we then shared in duets). Wonderful!
Linda Yemoto shared a puppet production illustrating the life-cycle of a Monarch Butterfly that was instantly interpreted by the group as illustrating much more than butterfly biology. Oh, we laughed until it hurt! And Linda was such a good sport to let us comment and enjoy the kauna (double meanings) that unfolded. Wow! Great sequence of shots by Jay.
TEEN SPOOKY SHOW @ Kaneohe Dist Park It was raining heavily, and my car was sputtering terribly (the cable had jiggled loose to one spark plug, VERY distressing that night!) This is the 3rd year we’ve done this Teen Spooky at Kaneohe because I love the leaders & kids!(Manny and Keynan.) It was so wet they correctly decided NOT to put tents up in the middle of the baseball field as in years past. I hustled us through dinner to get there at 6pm, but they had the show starting at 7pm (oops Jeff!)… everyone was gracious.
We began in the common space outside the office- odd lite, OK PA… Anne G. (Inuit string spirit story) and Linda Yemoto (jump tale) told. Then we moved to another multi-purpose room and after getting the lighting adjusted, we resumed tales with thunder and lightening flashing outside. There were 10 tales presented: Jeff & Masako: Yamamba (bilingual improv duet), Tomoko- obake kamishibai (picture cards lit by Dominique’s flashlight- cool! Went over really well!); Linda Yemoto made ‘em jump again (shish!); Jay Menes told a true story of a radio song contest (but the lady was in the hospital!); Anne Shimojima- Scottish tale, dead lover returns to take grieving girl to the grave (3 ToMaToes wanted it retold in car ride home to make sure they understood it) and a Jeff & Anne Sh- Mr. Fox: Anne Glover finished the night with a long Iraq tale. It was a feast of styles and cultures. All our tellers were very impressed with the attention of the teens, who clearly loved getting told spookies!
We hobbled home via Waimanalo fearing my car would not make it over the Pali mountains. I dropped the ToMaTo 3, then left car at gas station as Dominique came to bring me home.
This morning, Jay Menes emerged as our tech expert, taking various photos and short videos from all sources, collating and sharing them with me (preoccupied with Dad and daughter- still no kid?!??) Some shots are posted with these words). Mahalo Jay!
Dominique and Jeff went to get Caroline’s spare car only to learn Jeff’s car was already fixed (loose cable). Life! So I picked up ToMaTo and we went off to the gig.
The large public space at the Main Library was packed and the crowds stayed (including Will Ha’o, Yasu, Susie Roth and Serina again.) I recall the Kamishibai tale and Linda’s Jumping Frogs (props in a box) that had the kids in front row ecstatic! Vicky Dworkin hosted us here, and was pleased at the turn-out and the tales! Later she joined us for dinner.
Photos by Ray Tabata on Picaso https://picasaweb.google.com/103046303625644535713/TalkStoryFestivalJuly232013?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCMaSlf2o77qWdQ&feat=directlink https://picasaweb.google.com/103046303625644535713/TalkStoryFestivalJuly232013?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCMaSlf2o77qWdQ&feat=directlink
ALL YAKKERS YAKKING IT UP! 4pm, free, Kaimuki Public Library A ‘last blast’ of the whole group: Shimojima (Chicago), Glover (Victoria, Canada), Yemoto (San Francisco) Masako Toshiko & Tomoko (Tokyo), Menes (Manila), Gere (Kaimuki)
They kept needing to add chairs! As MC, I cleared out a space right in front for kids, introduced everyone briefly, and began a ‘tag-team’ approach: I tagged the first teller (Linda) who tagged the next teller… Toshiko & Tomoko did their ‘hit’, “The Man With The Persimmon Tree Growing Out of His Head”, Masako did a quick hand/clapping game, Jay put on a hilarious ‘fire fly with no light’ tale- still makes me laugh thinking of it. Anne S. told two funny stories, Glover did a string figure introduction to ‘Alligator & Monkey’, I ended with Sufi story of Time. The librarian asked me after the show, “how were we lucky enough to get this show- fabulous!” We took a few group shots and drove up the hill to our house for a closing dinner.
Word came that my daughter Mecca had FINALLY delivered her first child, son Ian, my first grandchild. And all are well.
CLOSING DINNER - Caroline’s husband was not well so she could not cook dinner. We bought 3 huge pizzas and opened the 3 bottles of sake (a gift from ToMaTo). Around the table under the orange tree in our yard, as the sun set, I was finally able to give these wonderful, generous, talented, curious and pliable tellers a beautiful lei with my thanks. And they then thanked us.
Later, there were short performances by Serina (rakugo tale), Yasu (story with origami), Toshiko (a story in English she did not do here before) and I did my new shadow puppet tale (Jewish folktale.) It felt wonderful in the house.
Linda left with her friend Ray early (link to photos here). Dominique and I went to the hospital to visit baby Ian and his proud, exhausted parents. That afternoon, both Annes, Jay, Dominique and I hiked Sacred Falls, dropped Jay at his ‘estate’ on the beach of the exclusive area of Lanikai, and then raced to get Anne Shimojima delivered to the airport for her flight back to Chicago.
ANNE GLOVER MEETS the LITTLE PEOPLE!10:30m, Free, @ Main Library Downtown A ‘String Fling’ wherein Anne Glover does preschool tales with… a monkey? Vicky Dworkin hosted Anne in the Children’s Room. Anne did a strong set with an army of preschoolers (and adults, over 100 folks!)
NOTE FROM VICKY DWORKIN: We had an enthusiastic crowd of 133 children and adults turn out for her Storytelling with String program in the Children’s Room at our usual preschool storytime time slot last Saturday. You must know that is a HUGE attendance for our Saturday morning program. She is fabulous! She is also one of those tellers who is great with preschoolers but also great with older audiences, including adults. She really does appeal to all ages. There were comments like “the people in Kailua would have loved this” from a woman active in Friends of Library. The post-program energy was amazing. I just want to tell you I am sure Anne would get a great response. Vicky Dworkin, Children’s Librarian Main Library
Later that afternoon we swam off Jay’s Lanikai estate, though he was not there (yes, a turtle swam by.) We took daughter Mecca & husband dinner, their first evening back from hospital with little Ian (about 3 days old!)
It was supposed to be a little swim off of Doris Duke Beach. The joy of floating up and over large swells proved intoxicating until we realized we had drifted quite a ways out and over, and swimming in (avoiding reef teeth) gave us a scare and lots of material for the rest of the afternoon.
JAY MENES @ FILIPINO CULTURE CENTER, 6pm Waipahu (free) Jay Menes performs as part of this monthly community event, highlighting local Filippino Slam Poetry (and Jay). Indeed, the main open courtyard was packed with folks enjoying the loud stage performances of youth poets and musicians. Jay was not well announced from the stage, and was put in a room already filled with tables for another group. We waited, and finally he began. Over the course of 3 stories the audience grew to a delighted 20 folks. He managed to turn a pretty unpromising situation into a lovely performance.
ANNE GLOVER GOES OFF! 4pm, Free, KAIMUKI PUBLIC LIBRARY A ‘Final String Fling’ in Hawaii! 140 people showed up- a mammoth turnout for a library show! WOW!
These storytellers were real troopers, adapting to the challenges of each of the many settings and various personalities wonderfully. No complaints at all, every show special and different, and lots of laughing and sharing dawn to dusk.
It is my great pleasure to a) bring such talents to so many Oahu folks, and b) what a gas to spend this intimate time with such creative people! Community of tellers, community of listeners. If you did not attend, you missed something special.
Nobody signed up for the Camp. There was very little income, the expenses of the tour covered by the tellers (to fly in for the adventure) and by the non-profit Alliance for Culture and Arts, which bought all meals. So there is work for me to do creating a financially functioning tour for the future.
I’ll do something like this again (sometime) with less driving.
Anne Shimojima and Anne Glover agreed to come back to tell at the 25th Annual TALK STORY FESTIVAL (with Ohio’s Lyn Ford, who taught & told at the first two Camps) on Friday, Oct. 18- Spookies! and Saturday Oct. 19- Deep Tales, 6-9pm each night FREE. It will be held this year at the Ala Wai Golfcourse (2nd Floor Ballroom) because McCoy Pavilion, the host of the Fest for 24 years, is under construction. Please plan to attend. Both Annes are available for other shows around that time: write firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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NEXT FOR JEFF: I’m doing a one-week residency Aug. 5 to 10 at the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, Tennesee. After, I will travel & tell with Eric Wolf in Ashville, North Carolina; Louisville,Ky; and Yellowsprings, Ohio. Then I join my recuperating father in Los Angeles ( 2 shows on 8/17 at the Skirball Center). I’m back in Hawaii 8/21. Phew!
NOTE FROM LINDA YEMOTO: As I said at our closing dinner Tuesday, Jeff and Dominique do such an incredible job of organizing, hosting, feeding, transporting and coordinating all of us during a very complex week of shows, workshops, hikes, swims and much more. ..It is impressive. We were so appreciative of all their work and energy making sure things went smoothly. Yes, we worked really hard with not enough down time; but we also had a fantastic time being together, learning together, telling together, and especially laughing together. Thanks Jeff and Dominique!
NOTE FROM ANNE SHIMOJIMA: This experience was so much more than I had expected. More laughter, more sharing, more telling – loved the tag-team Mr. Fox, more traveling, more challenging hikes – lost two pounds!, more great eating, more truly wonderful good times. I’m so grateful to Jeff and Dominique for all of their hard work and organization. You took such good care of us! My grateful thanks!
ANNE & LINDA WILL BOTH ATTEND THE NSN (NATIONAL STORYTELLING NETWORK) CONFERENCE (RICHMOND, VIRGINIA) IN EARLY AUGUST.
NOTE FROM MASAKO SUEOSHI: Please, let me tell Big Thanks to Jeff & Dominique again and again. We (ToMaTo) enjoyed Special Hawaii time. Yes, it’s true. It was not ordinary Japanese package tour, because of you. I enjoyed telling bilingual stories with Susie, Linda, Anne(S), and Jeff. I was so impressed to meet Barbara Kawakami. I liked to visit sacred places. I liked every story from Jeff, Anne(S&G), Linda, Jay, and Vicky…etc. Thanks for Jeff and Dominique, we experienced wonderful Hawaiian life and friendship among the storytellers, and cultural exchange. We (ToMaTo) are so inspired by Jeff &Dominique…producing, hospitality, entertainment, your natural life style…I love everything…everything you did! ARIGATOU !
NOTE FROM TOMOKO SUGANO: I was surprised with Jeff’s planning ability to produce such a various kind of storytelling events! We told stories at an university, libraries, a botanical garden, a bar, an art museum, and an temple! Jeff and Dominique drove and drove to transport us all over Oahu. We could meet good people and audiences. What wonderful and delightful days I spent in Hawaii! I thanked Jeff, Dominique and other companions. I enjoyed their stories and performances. And I was deeply impressed and moved with the closing party. I never forget peaceful moments under the tree in Jeff’s beautiful garden.