Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tellebration Place

     You can't get into heaven with a handful of dirt. This is information that may come in handy some day. Just not some day soon I hope.
     I learned this while listening to a story called The Man Who Clung To Earth. We were at the Cabaret Theatre in Salem for an event called Tellebration. Seven local storytellers kept us amused, enthralled and in tears over the course of a couple of hours.
     The event was part of a national resurgence in the simple art of the oral story. No music, costumes or staging, this is just one person standing up and offering a slice of human experience. I've enjoyed The Moth on NPR but there's nothing like the warmth of live and local.
     On Sunday Joe Peck offered two of his trademark glimpses into farm life. Christy Keegan remembered a misguided effort to support her sister. Gwenne Rippon (my one and only) told an emotional story of family forgiveness and redemption. Kelvin Keraga adapted Icelandic folktales that reminded me of Mettawee Theatre material, evocative even without the puppets. Tom Weakley then kept us in stitches with The Good Lookin' Suit (very punny). Dan Garfinkel, a familiar figure to many in Salem, came with a memoir of his father and alzheimers that was a rich blend of funny, sad and wise.
     Finally, our relationship with place was the subject of two memorable performances. Siri Allison, the event's gracious master of ceremonies, took an Arthur Clarke piece and made it her own in a heartwrenching tale of loss and longing. Clarke was a writer of deep science fiction best known for 2001: A Space Odyssey, the source for the Stanley Kubrick film. The story Siri told was titled If I Forget Thee, O Earth. In it a little girl is mesmerized by her first view of earth from exile in space. She has the revelation that the future of the human race rests on her love for the home planet, which has been made uninhabitable. May we all learn that love before it's too late.
     Tom Weakley closed the program telling us about a Vermont farmer who may have loved his place too much. He was so deeply rooted in his Mettawee Valley land that he wouldn't let go of it, not even to get into heaven. It took every trick in God's book to coax him thru the Pearly Gates but when he finally entered there was a richly satisfying reward waiting for him and the audience.
     I think all of us at the Salem Tellebration felt like we had spent a little time in heaven. Great job storytellers! Thank you.

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