Published: Sun, 22 Jan 2017 15:05:30 +0000
Last Build Date: Sun, 22 Jan 2017 15:11:41 +0000Copyright: Dennis, Kimberly and Zephyr Goza / L'Eau Theque Productions all rights reserved
Sun, 22 Jan 2017 15:05:30 +0000
Aladdin and the Lamp is one of the many popular tales from the collection commonly called The Arabian Nights, though its more proper name is The Thousand and One Nights. It's an anthology of many folktales from many countries, and going back many centuries. Although generally these stories originated in Arabic lands, Aladdin is of uncertain origin, and actually may have come from China.
We come to you from Heber Springs, AR., a sleepy little resort town that hums with tourists during the summer. It sits beside Greers Ferry Lake and Sugar Loaf Mountain, and the Greers Ferry National Fish Hatchery. The Greers Ferry Dam was dedicated by President John F. Kennedy in his last official appearance before his assassination.
Every July, the lake is home of the World Championship Cardboard Boat Races. Yes, the boats really are made of cardboard, and are quite colorful.
Dennis (Aladdin, Stranger) and Kimberly (Mother, Vendor, Genies, Sultan, Sultana)
Sat, 24 Dec 2016 19:15:30 +0000
The Mouse Princess is one of those tales about someone being transformed into an animal and then trying to be transformed back again. It's somewhat similar to The Frog Prince except -- well, it's a princess instead of a prince and a mouse instead of a frog. As in many other such stories (and many folktales in general) there are certain tasks to be completed and challenges to be met before the spell is broken. This story is from Scandinavia, specifically Finland, home of many Christmas-ish things like snow and reindeer and evergreens.
Since the story deals with customs and traditions, and we are presenting it at holiday time, we also discuss the holiday tradition of hanging stockings.
Incidentally, there is a reference to the late British author Brian Jacques (yes, it really is pronounced "Jakes"). If you didn't get the joke, you've been missing out on some great reading.
We come to you from Greenville, SC. Our special guest is Ben Lafontaine, a listener who contacted us and asked if he could be involved in a podcast. We're happy to have him, and we're sure you'll agree he did a great job.
Dennis (Narrator, Lars), Kimberly (Farmer's Daughter, Mouse, Princess) and Ben (Father, Hans)
Tue, 29 Nov 2016 19:03:43 +0000
The Frog and the Sky Princess is a story from Angola in Africa, about a frog and a princess that involves the lead character successfully completing tasks to prove his worthiness to obtain a prize – in this case the hand of the princess in marriage. Yes, it's somewhat like the classic European tale The Frog Prince, though in this case there's no metamorphosis between species. But it's also curiously similar to an American legend.
It was immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 1858 narrative poem The Courtship of Miles Standish, in which military captain Miles Standish wants to court the lady Priscilla, but is a bit too shy, so he sends his friend John Alden with messages on his behalf. Priscilla is indeed won over, but it is Alden she falls for and not Standish. The characters in the story were real people – John Alden did marry Priscilla, and Miles Standish has a state park named after him in Massachusetts (we've camped there); and Longfellow claimed the story was true. But most likely it was just a folk tradition that somehow became attached to actual people.
We come to you from Greenville, South Carolina, where we're doing our annual Christmas tree sale to benefit our company. We hope things are really hopping for you, and you're having a hoppy holiday season.
Dennis (Kimana, Hawk, Sun King) and Kimberly (Narrator, Rabbit, Sky Princess, Frog)
Wed, 26 Oct 2016 16:16:59 +0000
Savitri is a tale from the Mahabharata, the national epic poem of India, written about 2500 years ago. It's somewhat similar to the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, except things are reversed: it's the wife who goes to rescue her husband from death, and (spoiler alert) in this case she succeeds with her wits.
We come to you from Abington, Massachusetts, where we are performing as ghouls and zombies and other spooks in one of New England's finest haunted attractions. And we are counting the gorgeous leaves we see everywhere. Well, not really counting, but you know what we mean.
Dennis (Father, Satyavan, Yama) and Kimberly (Narrator, Savitri)
Sun, 25 Sep 2016 20:12:12 +0000
The Hen Is in the Mountains is a sibling tale, one of those in which (spoiler alert) the youngest of the brood succeeds in overcoming obstacles where his or her older siblings failed. (e.g. Cinderella or The Flying Ship) It also involves a girl marrying a beast (as in Beauty and the Beast), and the bride of a horrendous husband prowling in their home and finding horrible secrets (Bluebeard).
We come to you from Providence, RI, where we've been having a great time with Kimberly's sister Shannon, who is a guest star on this podcast. Yes, we said sister. As we explain in the podcast, Shannon is one of 5 siblings that Kimberly discovered only recently. She now has met two of them, and Shannon came out from Arizona to spend a few days with us exploring the Boston area.
We hope you find lost connections, and avoid standing on trap doors.
Dennis (Narrator, Ogre, Mysterious Voice), Kimberly (Ingrid, Sonia) and Shannon (Mother, Marta)
Wed, 24 Aug 2016 17:21:53 +0000
The Bottomless Cup is one of those stories about people getting gifts from elves, fairies, or other supernatural critters, and using those gifts foolishly or negligently. In some cases, the gift is a set of wishes rather than dishes – usually three of them, so that the person’s last foolish wish is to get the sausage off the end of his nose or some such. In this case the gift is more material, and the abuse of it comes in the form of neglect rather than rashness.
We bring this story from France because we recently brought ourselves from France, visiting the Eiffel Tower – which we climbed this time – and the magnificent Musee de la Musique, with 5 floors of strange and rare musical instruments as old as 2500 years. We also dropped in at the Louvre, one of the world’s greatest art museums, where we saw the Mona Lisa.
We come to you from Springfield, MA., hometown of Dr. Seuss, where we’ve just finished up our 2016 summer tour. We’ll be in New England through the end of October, after which we fly south for the winter.
Dennis (Narrator, Elf, Captain, Neighbor) and Kimberly (Woman)
Sun, 24 Jul 2016 22:50:22 +0000
The Lady Of Stavoren is a tale that has been told for centuries, in dozens of variations. Stavoren, on the coast of The Netherlands, is now a village of fewer than 1000 people. But 1000 years ago, it was a major seaport. Then during the Middle Ages, a sand bar formed in the harbor that made it impossible for ships to get in and out. As a result, the city fell into decline. This story, probably entirely fictitious, was created to explain how the sand bar got there. In 1969, a statue of the Lady Of Stavoren looking out onto the harbor was erected in the town.
You might notice that like our story of The Krakow Pigeons, this story explains how something originated as a result of someone’s rash, foolish, extravagant actions.
We come to you from Hackettstown, NJ, where we are in town to return to the Northeast Branch of the Warren County Library. We’ve concluded our tour of the southern states, and next we’ll be headed to Pennsylvania and New England to conclude the summer. With any luck, it will be a little cooler. Hope to see you at a show!
Dennis (Narrator, Stefan) and Kimberly (Magrit, Servant)
Thu, 23 Jun 2016 23:02:24 +0000
The Krakow Pigeons is a story from Poland that supposedly explains why the people of the city of Krakow have so much respect for pigeons, those nasty, pesky, obnoxious little -- oops, those birds which many people revile. It tells how a medieval prince named Henryk tried to unite Poland, which had been divided into five kingdoms. He failed, and the country remained divided until 1333 when King Casimir III took the throne.
We come to you from Jonesboro, AR in the middle of our summer tour. It's the 20th anniversary of our first yearly performance for the Jonesboro library.
We continue telling about our travels in Europe, this time focusing on Krakow, which was our favorite city. Old Town Krakow has the look of a fairy tale city, with many structures well preserved for centuries. We were able to see the fire-breathing statue of the famous dragon and Wawel Hill (which we climbed, just like the boys in our story). We mention that the famed astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) studied at the University Of Krakow (now called Jagiellonian University), which was founded in 1364-- by King Casimir III. Krakow was also home of Oskar Schindler's enamelware factory, now the site of two museums.
Dennis (Henryk, First Prince) and Kimberly (Narrator, Hans, Witch, Second Prince)
Tue, 24 May 2016 23:25:02 +0000
The Three Heirs is a tale from Germany, in the tradition of worldwide sibling rivalry yarns. As usual in these stories, the youngest brother gets the best of his older siblings; even though they are older, bigger and stronger, and consider him a simpleton, he triumphs with his honesty and wits. Compare the Russian story The Flying Ship and the Fool of the World and the Hispanic tale Juan Bobo. The latter even involves a door and a tree like the present story.
We come to you from Reno, Nevada, where we are in the midst of putting together our new production, Tales Afoot, which opens next month at libraries in Arkansas. The four stories included in this production are The Tortoise and the Hare, The Gingerbread Man, Racing the Troll, and Old Stormalong Races the Steamship.
We tell you more about out trip to Europe, this time discussing Vienna and Berlin. Vienna is home of one of the world’s greatest opera houses, one of the world’s tallest churches, and quite simply the world’s best chocolate cake (at Sacher Café). It also features the Stock im Eisen, a tree dating back to about 1400, full of nails that people once drove into it for good luck. And oh yes, there are plenty of horse-drawn carriages around.
Berlin is the most modern city we visited in Europe, as so much of the old Berlin was destroyed in World War II. We examined artwork on the remaining portions of the Berlin Wall and took our picture at Checkpoint Charlie, a legendary entry and exit point where the wall once stood. And we also saw many Buddy Bears, those distinctive fiberglass sculptures promoting peace.
We hope to catch you at a show this summer.
Dennis (Father, Broderick, Farmer 1, Farmer 2, and Goblin 1) and Kimberly (Narrator, Peter, Hans, Goblin 2)
Mon, 25 Apr 2016 02:23:26 +0000
The Crab Prince is a little-known story from Venice that has many similarities to the better-known Frog Prince. Like that story, it makes use of two themes common to many folktales: transformation of humans into animals (a tradition dating back at least to the Odyssey, in which Circe transforms men into swine) and the power of love to overcome evil -- i.e., break a curse. This includes Sleeping Beauty, among others.
We come to you from Sacramento, California, after wrapping up two very busy weeks in our old stomping grounds of the San Francisco Bay Area and just beyond, doing shows and workshops at schools and libraries every day.
We continue our account of our recent trip to Europe, with some details of Pompeii, an ancient city devastated by a volcano in the year 79; Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance; and Venice, the waterbound city where our story originated.
We're getting ready to head to Washington and Idaho for the final performances of our current production, and then we'll head to Reno to finish getting our new production together. Looking forward to bringing our new stories to a venue near you.
Dennis (Fisherman, King, Beggar, Crab Prince) and Kimberly (Narrator, Griselda, Fairy Princess)
Fri, 25 Mar 2016 19:30:09 +0000
The King’s Ring is a story from Italy, which we’re not coming to you from, but would have been a couple of months ago. So before telling you the story, we’re telling you about half of our time in Italy (we’ll do the other half next time). This includes Pisa, with its famous leaning tower, Rome with its Forum and Colosseum and many other ruins, and Cinque Terra, a set of 5 colorful little seaside villages dating back about 1000 years.
In the story we meet a King who has lost his ring. A peasant posing as an astrologer comes to the rescue, but not in the manner you might expect.
We come to you from Los Angeles, where we’re meeting up with old friends (meaning friends we’ve known a long time, not friends who have advanced in years) and getting back on track after an accident that destroyed our old trailer. We have a new trailer, and we’re back on the road.
In Los Angeles, we have some performances at schools and a two-day theatrical residency at the Asian Youth Center, sponsored by International Paper. Then we’re headed north to San Francisco for several public performances at libraries. We hope to see you somewhere along the way.
Dennis (Herald, Bystander, Antonio, Servant 2) and Kimberly (Narrator, King, Servant 1, Servant 3)
Upcoming Shows this April in the San Francisco Bay area - You are invited to free children's theatre at local libraries.
Mon, 15 Feb 2016 20:21:16 +0000
The Quackling, from France, is an odd fable in which not only is the main character a talking animal, but it's taken for granted that inanimate objects can talk as well. It involves quite a suspension of disbelief, even to the point that in the original story there is no explanation given for why the duck doesn't just fly or swim to solve his problems. This story is of the type in which the main character makes clever use of what appear to be useless objects in order to get out of a jam, and win fame and fortune. This motif occurs not only in folktales, but also in other types of fiction. As we mention, it was used with a great deal of originality in the science fiction film Paycheck. This is yet another illustration of how even the most inventive modern stories are derived from folktales many centuries old.
We come to you from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, having just driven from Atlanta, where we landed after a monthlong tour of Europe. This included 6 days in Paris, where we not only visited the Eiffel Tower, but climbed it. We also toured the magnificent Palace Of Versailles, former home to royalty, luxury and historic events (it was built in the 17th Century, not the 18th as we say in the podcast). We went underneath the city streets in the Paris Catacombs, which are many miles of tunnels that have served as an ossiary (a place where bones are stored) for centuries. We visited a museum of musical instruments, viewing thousands of old, modern, curious and wonderful. And we toured the legendary Notre Dame Cathedral, which has been wowing people for 800 years.
Next month, Italy.
Dennis (Narrator, The River, The Hive, King, Citizen 2) and Kimberly (Quackling, The Ladder, Citizen 1
Tue, 22 Dec 2015 17:28:16 +0000
It isn’t really a holiday story, but The Gifts Of Wali Dad from India (or is it Pakistan?) seems appropriate for the occasion, with all of its generous gift-giving. Collected by famed folklorist Andrew Lang, who heard it from a British army officer stationed in the Punjab (which was later split between India and Pakistan) who in turn heard it from a native of the region, it seems to be an absurdist cautionary tale about the consequences of being too extravagant. See if you can spot the reference to Cinderella and the (more subtle) reference to Raiders Of The Lost Ark.
We’re currently in Greenville, SC, where we’ve been selling Christmas trees as a fundraiser. We’re getting ready to make our way back west as we do at about this time every year. But first we have an exciting little detour that we’ll be telling you about later. Stay tuned.
Dennis (Wali Dad, King, First Servant) and Kimberly (Narrator, Jeweler, Messenger, Queen, Peri, Second Servant)
Sun, 15 Nov 2015 16:46:14 +0000
The Troll and the Shoes is one of those stories about racing in which (as in The Tortoise and the Hare) the hero wins by means of some skill besides sheer speed -- i.e., determination, imagination, knowledge, and/or (as in the present case) trickery. This will be one of the stores we will be presenting next summer at libraries for the summer reading theme "Ready, Set, Read."
We come to you from Bowie, MD., having just wound up our fall stint in New England, and now beginning to migrate south for the winter. We were able to attend and perform at the New England Library Association's annual conference (this time in Manchester, NH).
On the way south, we were able to catch up with a friend who is now one of the crew for the Kalmar Nyckel, a replica of a Seventeenth Century Dutch merchant vessel. We were able to go on board and examine the incredible workmanship of the vessel up close.
We also went into New York City, and saw not one but two Broadway musicals in one day. The second was Matilda (based on the Roald Dahl book), which was merely good. The first was Allegiance, which was absolutely fantastic. A comic/tragic/poignant story about the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, it featured excellent songs and choreography presented by an outstanding cast. Among them, playing two roles, was George Takei, best known for the original Star Trek series. With as much theatre as we've been exposed to, we're difficult to impress. This show really floored us.
Dennis (Narrator, Troll) and Kimberly (Greta, Rita)
Fri, 25 Sep 2015 19:14:41 +0000
The Two Storks is a transformation-into-an-animal yarn from what is now Iraq, though it hasn’t always been called that. It takes place in the city of Baghdad, which has been called that for just about as long as anyone can remember. Like certain other tales, including Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, it features a plot complication in the form of a magic spell that the person casting it is unable to reverse.
We come to you from Nickerson State Park on beautiful Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where we’ve been catching up on our biking. We’ve ridden the entire Cape Cod Rail Trail (22 miles) roundtrip, which means at least 44 miles, plus several more miles in side trips. We’ve finally concluded our summer season, our second busiest ever, and picked up a late addition of two performances at the Pawtucket Arts Festival in Rhode Island.
We’ve also managed to make it into Boston a couple of times, including an attendance of the short film session of the Boston Film Festival. One of the films we saw, A Man Wakes Up, was a hilarious film without dialogue, written by and starring Amos Glick, who happens to be one of our former cast members, way back when we were still based in San Francisco about a million years ago. He didn’t know we were coming, and the look on his face was priceless when he spotted us in the lobby and slowly figured out who we were. Just goes to show you: you’d better watch out, because you never know when we may pop in.
Dennis (Prince, Omar, Guard) and Kimberly (Narrator, Adviser, Wizard, Princess)
Wed, 19 Aug 2015 13:02:22 +0000
Vasalisa and Baba Yaga brings together two characters from Russian folklore who each appear in several other stories. Vasalisa is a sort of Russian Cinderella/ Hansel and Gretel, and Baba Yaga is the nasty old witch/ogre who lives in the deep dark forest and eats bad children.
We come to you from Dedham, Massachusetts (a suburb of Boston), where we just performed for the summer reading program. One of the stories we performed was Davy Crockett, which was appropriate, since we performed on August 17, which was David (Davy) Crockett's birthday. Three more performances after that, and our busy summer is a wrap.
A big thank you to a family of longtime podcast listeners who traveled a great distance and even got a hotel room so they could see us perform in Williamsport, PA. It really made our day.
Dennis (Narrator, Stepmother, Kookla) and Kimberly (Vasalisa, Mother, Baba Yaga)
Tue, 28 Jul 2015 18:25:51 +0000
The Fairy Palace, a story from China, is one of those quest stories about going on a trek to retrieve or obtain something of great value. It also features another common motif: someone with extraordinary skill in weaving, spinning, or sewing. And it really does involve fairies. And a palace. In our case, it also contains a few references to other stories, including Jack and the Beanstalk, The Emperor's New Clothes, Harry Potter, and the film Casablanca.
We come to you from Delaware Seashore State Park, as we take a rare 4-day break in the middle of this, our second-busiest summer ever. We're wrapping up our July appearances at 33 Delaware libraries and 5 Maryland libraries, before going on to New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.
On the way out here from Arkansas, we were able to stop at a log cabin in Tennessee that we've mentioned many times over the years in our popular story about the legendary hero who was born there: David ("Davy") Crockett. It looked very much as we'd pictured it, only more so. It really is right beside the Nolichucky River, which really does exist.
We then spent Independence Day at Kiptopeke State Park on Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, hiking and kayaking and exploring the terrain in quest of something else that rhymes with those two things – a futile quest since we don't have bikes at the moment. But we did discover a fleet of concrete ships (we'll pause for a moment while that sinks in) that served during World War II when steel was hard to come by. Evidently they worked okay, because they're still afloat now, just waiting for double-takes.
We've also been on a mission to put our feet on almost every board on almost every boardwalk on the East Coast, including those in Ocean City MD, Rehoboth Beach DE, and Bethany Beach DE. We especially enjoyed Ocean City because of Trimper's Rides, an old-fashioned amusement arcade that's been a fixture since before your grandfather was a grandfather.
We hope the rest of your summer is as charming and memorable as a boardwalk (not a bored walk).
Dennis (Merchant, Son, Passerby, Second Fairy, Third Fairy) and Kimberly (Narrator, Mother, Old Woman, First Fairy)
Thu, 25 Jun 2015 16:48:13 +0000
The summer is racing along at a rabbit's pace, so it's a good time to bring you "The Tortoise and the Hare", popularized by the Greek slave Aesop, who told a great many fabulous fables. In later centuries, many similar stories sprang up in many cultures around the world. This is a sort of sneak preview of the story for our audiences, as next summer we'll be unveiling a stage version of the tale that will incorporate some of the elements we've put into this podcast. By the way, do you recognize the references to other stories and songs we sneak into this story? (If you don't see the answers below.)
We come to you from a sizzling Hot Springs, Arkansas, where we're delighted to be performing at the library once again. It's a pretty busy month, but since we have much more free time this month than we will have next month, we've been trying to play tourist while we can. We have seen dinosaur footprints in New Mexico, explored a cave and hiking trail near a waterfall in Oklahoma, and went swimming in crystal clear water in Blanchard Springs, Arkansas.
And now the marathon summer is officially underway! Hope to see you in one of our pit stops.
Dennis (Narrator, Tortoise, Hare 2, Girl) and Kimberly (Hare, Hare 3)
(ANSWERS: The Wizard Of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, The Tar Baby, Bfer Rabbit and the Briar Patch; and the songs "The Battle Of New Orleans", "The Caisson Song" and "Into The Woods".)
Sat, 23 May 2015 19:17:42 +0000
It's just like our last story, only very different. "The Story Spirits", from Korea, examines the traditional theme of an individual who wants to keep stories all for himself—and thereby demonstrates how important it is to share them with everyone.
We come to you from Santa Fe, rich in art, history and Native American culture. We've also spent time recently in Albuquerque, and at the Grand Canyon. We took a train ride there from Williams, AZ (the last town on the old Route 66 to be bypassed by the new freeway, Interstate 40), an experience which included a theatrical encounter with some Wild West hombres.
We also spent a couple of days hiking and exploring t Bandelier National Monument, an archaeological site where you can view the remnants of cliff dwellings once occupied by the Anansazi for centuries. What stories they must have had to tell!
Happy (Santa Fe and other) trails to you. And happy listening.
Dennis (Young Jin-Sun, Adult Jin-Sun, Spirit 1, Spirit 3, Spirit 5, Spirit 7) and Kimberly (Narrator, Byung-Ho, Spirit 2, Spirit 4, Spirit 6, Screaming Bride)
Sat, 25 Apr 2015 05:46:36 +0000
Anansi and the Story Box is a tale from Ghana in Africa, about the legendary spider-man hero of the Ashanti tribe, and how he brought stories to the world. It bears certain similarities to the Greek myths of Pandora and Prometheus, and includes a plot point similar to The Tar Baby, which made its way from Africa to America.
We come to you from Reno, NV, where we are putting together our new show that will premiere this summer. We recently returned to our roots in the San Francisco Bay Area, where we hiked a trail at Land's End, near The Golden Gate. We also took a ride on the Niles Canyon Railway, a vintage train line that runs between the Bay Area towns of Sunol and Fremont. The Fremont station is located in an area known as Niles, which was the early home of silent movie-making before it was relocated to Hollywood.
We hope you will enjoy this story, and the great lengths to which our resident arachnid went to get it.
Dennis (Minor God, Nyame, Python, Lion, Fairy) and Kimberly (Narrator, Anansi)
Mon, 16 Mar 2015 01:44:46 +0000
The Four Puppets is a story from the country traditionally called Burma, but now known as Myanmar. We bring it to you from Dublin, just in time for St. Patrick's Day. Okay, so it's not Dublin in Ireland, but Dublin in California, back in the San Francisco Bay Area where we got our start almost 27 years ago. But this Dublin seems just as serious about St. Patrick's Day as the other one.
Since we last saw you, we performed in Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma. And we visited three fascinating attractions in Arkansas.
The first was the Jerome-Rohwer Interpretative Center in McGehee, a museum preserving the experiences of the thousands of Japanese-Americans who were interned (a fancy word for imprisoned) at the Jerome and Rohwer camps, which stood nearby. Among the prisoners was 5-year-old George Takei, a future star of Star Trek.
Then in North Little Rock, we toured a submarine. That's right, a submarine on the Arkansas River. And equally surprising, it flies a Turkish flag as well as the American flag. You'd be right if you guessed that there's a colorful history there. The USS Razorback was commissioned in World War II and served the U.S. Navy for many years before being sold to Turkey, where it served the Turkish navy for many more years, under the name TCG Muratreis. Now it's the USS Razorback again, and it's back in the U.S., and you can go aboard.
Then we were off to Hurricane River Cave, where we were not content to take the regular tour like normal people, but opted for the 4-hour extreme tour, which involved climbing, crawling through tight spots (if you think a submarine is close quarters, you should try this), wading in a river, and getting cold and covered with clay. We loved it!
Here's hoping you have a month of adventures.
Dennis (Ang, Father) and Kimberly (everyone else)
Fri, 20 Feb 2015 23:35:27 +0000
The Snake and the Frog is a trickster tale from the Island of Andros in the Bahamas. It's similar to many Anansi stories, and for good reason: Anansai the spiderman, according to legend, made his way from Africa to the New World to comfort and inspire slaves. Thus, we have many Anansi stories in the U.S., as well as in these islands just offshore.
We chose this story because we recently returned from a 4-day trip to The Bahamas, visiting the cities of Freeport and Nassau. At Lucaya Marketplace in Freeport, we encountered a colorful character dressed in traditional costume, who told us about the Bahamian festival of Junkanoo (he believed the name to be derived from John Canoe), which unfortunately we'd just missed. It's a time of great revelry celebrating, he told us, freedom, peace, love and other good things. (Or good "tings", as the locals would say.) The dancing is accompanied by percussive music they call Kalik, apparently from the word click.
We also enjoyed a couple of the wonderful beaches for which these islands are noted, including one called Junkanoo. This was in the city of Nassau, which we found a fun and colorful place to stroll around. We were able to watch artisans make and sell their crafts at the famous Straw Market, and visited the curious Nassau Library, which was formerly a jail, and the Queen's Staircase, built by newly freed slaves as a token of thanks.
And we had a wonderful time just being on the cruise ship, enjoying the atmosphere and the entertainment and the great food and the fellow passengers. We're ready to do it again!
Dennis (Frog, Goat, Rooster) and Kimberly (Narrator, Snake, Owl)
Sun, 18 Jan 2015 02:00:16 +0000
The Soothsayer is a tale from Persia (now Iran) about a poor and somewhat innocent laborer who finds a golden opportunity to advance himself, largely through taking advantage of chance occurrences. As with The Bremen Town Musicians, his conquest of his adversaries hinges upon the latter overhearing and misunderstanding him. Other popular folktales that depend upon overheard and misunderstood snatches of conversation include The Brave Little Tailor and Rumplestiltskin. And notice that forty seems to be a popular number of thieves in Middle Eastern stories.
We come to you from Miami, where we've just presented programs at the Miami Lakes Library, thanks to a generous grant from Target. We've also been trying to keep ourselves entertained during our time in Florida, with such desperate measures as manatee watching, going to Universal Studios to catch the new Harry Potter attraction Diagon Alley, and trying out a wild new water sport called flyboarding.
Dennis (Narrator, Ahmed, Guard, King, Thief Ringleader) and Kimberly (Narrator, Raha, Wealthy Woman, Royal Soothsayer, King's Attendant, Servant Thief, Second Thief)
Wed, 03 Dec 2014 14:13:14 +0000
The Legend Of Slappy Hooper is an American tall tale, suitable to accompany our belated wish that you had a great observance of the American holiday Thanksgiving. You will notice certain similarities to better known American tall tales like Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill and Old Stormalong – all of whom were also men of gigantic stature and extraordinary abilities.
This tall tale, however, is of more recent vintage, apparently having originated sometime in the early Twentieth Century. It first appeared in print in 1946, in a book written by folklorist/ novelist Jack Conroy, who also wrote about (and possibly embellished) two other tall tales. His book was illustrated by Arna Bontemps. The work of Conroy and Bontemps had been funded several years earlier by the federal government, thanks to the Works Progress Administration, or WPA (later renamed the Works Projects Administration), a program designed to put Americans back to work after The (Not So) Great Depression. The WPA provided jobs in a wide variety of fields, from construction to the arts.
The story of Slappy Hooper was retold more recently (1993) in another picture book by Aaron Shepard, who added a few twists of his own devising. Among these was the florist episode, which we have borrowed with a tip of the hat to Mr. Shepard.
We come to you from Greenville, SC, having just completed a weeklong residency at a school in Summerville, SC. Before that, we drove down from Massachusetts and along the way we dropped in at an amazing attraction in Charlotte, NC called Exit Strategy. In short, we have begun our winter migration southward.
Dennis (Slappy, Narrator, Bystander 1, Jim Dandy, Uncle, Mayor) and Kimberly (Narrator, Baker, Florist, Aunt, Bystander 2)
Mon, 27 Oct 2014 19:49:26 +0000
A classic Greek legend/ myth about one of the most horrifying creatures of all time, arriving just in time for the haunting season. She was defeated by a hero who learned to "think outside the box" before that expression was even trendy.
We come to you from Foxboro, MA, which has more going for it than the New England Patriots. For one thing, it's the home of the incredibly cool interactive adventure 5 Wits, where our son Zephyr works. And this year, it;s the home of Beelzebub's CarnEvil, the Halloween attraction he's dreamed of opening since he was 9 years old. It's finally up and running and scaring the wits out of people.
Happy and Haunted Listening,
Dennis (Narrator, King, Perseus, Guest 1, Graeae 2) and Kimberly (Narrator, Medusa, Guest 2, Guest 3, Graeae 1, Graeae 3)
Fri, 26 Sep 2014 14:25:14 +0000
From Scotland comes The Two Sisters and the Hag, one of many versions of this story found in many countries, contrasting how good behavior is rewarded and how bad behavior is punished. We come to you from New Rochelle, NY, site of our most recent performances. We took some time to spend a day strolling in New York City, seeing the new memorial at the World Trade Center and the High Line, a former elevated train track that has now been converted into a city park.Before that, we were in Newport, Rhode Island, where we soared high over the water at Island Style Parasailing, the first time we've ever tried sky-skiing. We hope it won't be the last. And we've spent a great deal of time during the past month doing volunteer work for our son Zephyr, a former member of our theatrical troupe. who is putting the final touches on a haunted house he is opening in Foxboro, MA at the Orpheum Theatre. This fulfills a dream (read: obsession) he's had since he was nine. Happy Listening,
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 23:25:56 +0000
The Monkey's Heart is a little fable from India about a crocodile that tries to trick a monkey into supplying its heart for a strange snack. There is a similar story in China in which a dragon rather than a crocodile is the villain.
We come to you from North Kingstown, RI. We recently wrapped up our summer tour, and now we'll be in New England for the next month or so.
We recently had an opportunity to do some hiking and climbing on the amazing rock formations in Purgatory Chasm State Park in Sutton, Massachusetts. It's like having a naturally designed playground and rock climbing gym.
And we paid another visit to Dr. Seuss Memorial Sculpture Garden in Springfield, MA, which was the Good Doctor's hometown and inspired the imagery in many of his books. The sculptor who designed this amazingly realistic tribute happened to be Dr. Seuss' stepdaughter.
Happy listening (and watch out for the oobleck!)
Dennis (Mr. Crocodile, Hunter, Narrator) and Kimberly (Mrs. Crocodile, Vendor, Snake, Monkey, Narrator)
Sun, 20 Jul 2014 15:42:15 +0000
"The Precious Cow" is a little-known fable from Africa about the importance of valuing strong family ties above material wealth. As we point out, it offers a bit of a twist to the "rule of three", a common characteristic of many popular folktales.
We come to you from Chapel Hill, NC, having just completed a return engagement at the High Point Library. Among our audiences there were some regular podcast listeners, the delightful Singleton family, so we decided to let them say howdy on the next podcast – namely, this one.
We also discuss our adventures climbing Pilot Mountain in North Carolina, and zip lining in North Carolina and Arkansas.
Dennis (Father, Oldest Son, Middle Son) and Kimberly (Narrator, Youngest Son, Cow)
Mon, 23 Jun 2014 19:23:15 +0000
The Golden Spinning Wheel is a story from the country formerly known as Bohemia, and then Czechoslovakia, and now The Czech Republic. The story is the subject of a picture book by Lisl Weil in which musical notes are printed across the page along with illustrations of the story. The musical notes are from a piece of music inspired by the story, composed by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904), who was fascinated by the folklore and folk music of his country, and infused much of his music with the flavor of both. He did the same for American folk music after spending 3 years here, and his masterpiece, the symphony called "From the New World", has been featured in Hollywood westerns. (The snippet of his music we use during the spinning wheel scene is from "Songs My Mother Taught Me".)
We come to you from Heber Springs, AR, after making our annual trek across the country to begin our summer tour – which commenced this time in Fayetteville, AR. We had time along the way to see some interesting sights, including the Omaha Zoo, the Buffalo National River in Arkansas and Bluff Dwellers Cavern in Missouri. Are we having fun yet? Czech!
Dennis (Narrator, King, Dwarf, Guard) and Kimberly (Narrator, Dornischka, Stepmother, Stepsister)
Tue, 20 May 2014 19:13:49 +0000
"The Woman Who Flummoxed the Fairies" from Scotland is a sort of trickster tale, a type of story in which a seemingly helpless individual triumphs by his (or in this case her) wits. It's also a cumulative story, meaning that it involves repetition, as new elements are added to the plot – somewhat like baking a cake, as our heroine does.
We come to you from Reno Nevada, our annual pit stop where we put an old show into storage and whip up a new one in our theatrical kitchen. We think of the month of May as an excuse for Kimberly to sew new costumes and Dennis to write new scripts and music. We hope you can sample the end result of our recipes in the near future.
Dennis (Narrator, Fair Judge, Fairy King) and Kimberly (Margaret, Tea Kettle, Cat, Dog, Baby, Narrator)
Tue, 22 Apr 2014 00:52:29 +0000
Our story this month is "How the Kangaroo Got Its Pouch", an Australian nature myth. Since it deals with kangaroo mothers and how they acquired the ability to carry their young around easily, we thought it would be a suitable story for Mothers' Day, which is hopping up in May.
We're coming to you this time from Reno, NV, where we made a brief detour to buy a new touring vehicle. We bought it and got it ready in about 3 days, during which time we were able to spend Easter with Kimberly's parents. Now we're headed back to the San Francisco Bay Area, where we have a few more performances before we start gearing up for the summer season and our annual trek across the continent. We hope to catch up with you somewhere in the Outback.
Happy Listening, Mate
Dennis (Narrator, Hunter, Byarnee, Kangaroo 2) and Kimberly (Mama, Joey, Wombat, Kangaroo 1)
Thu, 20 Mar 2014 06:17:00 +0000From Norway comes this classic story about a princess who was very charming except that she had no sense of humor. This tale is rather unusual in that it's both a Rule Of Three story and a cumulative story. Rule Of Three refers to the three-part structure that many stories (and jokes) have: The Three Little Pigs, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, etc. In this case, there are three brothers who each undertake a task in turn. A cumulative story (sometimes called a chain story) involves a series of actions in which something is repeated -- in this case, the actions all involve the goose. For additional examples of cumultive stories we have done, see Simple Ivan, The Drum, The Gingerbread Man and Something From Nothing -- as well as the familiar nursery rhyme "The House That Jack Built". We come to you from Needles, California, having driven across country as we do at this time every year. In just a few days, we have endured sub-zero termperatures and monstrous sandstorms, and now we're in beach weather again. Whatever the weather where you are, we hope your day will be brightened by this story. Happy Listening,Dennis (Narrator, King, Funny Man, Peter, Hans, Man, Blacksmith) and Kimberly (Narrator, Princess, Herald, Paul, Cook, Goose Woman, Seamstress)[...]
Sun, 23 Feb 2014 20:27:17 +0000
The Tichborne Dole is a legend from England that may be true or based on true events. It supposedly occurred around 1150, and may explain the origin of a yearly custom in Hampshire, England, in which the aristocratic Tichborne family gives flour to the poor every March 25. The custom supposedly follows the last wishes of Lady Maybela Tichborne, who was very charitable and also, apparently, very tough and determined. She was reputed to be such a heroic figure that even the wind, normally very blustery in March, cooperated in securing her legacy.
We come to you from the very windy Oklahoma, having just driven from Jacksonville, Florida to Albuquerque, and then made our way back east toward Memphis. Phew! With all of our driving and residencies at schools and libraries, we still managed to drop in for a "spell" at The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter in Universal Orlando, and take a leisurely train ride from Albuquerque to the colorful and historic little city of Santa Fe, where we indulged in a walking tour.
Dennis (Narrator, Roger, Servant 2) and Kimberly (Narrator, Maybela, Doctor, Servant 1)
Wed, 15 Jan 2014 23:32:00 +0000
The Tar Baby is a classic African-American story from slavery days, inspired by a similar story from Africa, presented especially for Black History Month (February).
The Tar Baby is a trickster tale about the Rabbit (often called Brer Rabbit), who is a recurring character in these folktales. The story is a study in irony, because (spoiler alert) first the Rabbit gets into a jam only by putting up too much of a fuss and becoming unnecessarily angry; and then he gets out of it by pretending to fear something he really loves. It's like stepping into quicksand, getting stuck because you struggle too much, and then getting your enemy to help you out of it by convincing him you really don't want out.
We come to you from Boca Raton, Florida, as we get ready to make appearances at the Davie/Cooper City Library in Davie. (We guess Cooper City lost the coin toss.) It's one of our presentations funded by Target grants, for which we are ever grateful. And we discuss our recent adventure at the Brevard Zoo and Treetop Trek in Melbourne, FL.
Dennis (Narrator, Fox) and Kimberly (Narrator, Rabbit)
Mon, 23 Dec 2013 23:41:00 +0000
Winter has officially begun. And in honor of the season of Christmas trees, hot chocolate, ice skating, and heavy traffic at the mall, we bring you a story about winter – and summer – from the Acoma tribe of Native Americans in New Mexico. More specifically, it's a story about the changing seasons, and the importance of cooperation and balance.
We come to you from Greenville, SC, where we've been welcoming winter every year for the past few years. Looking forward to Florida next month and wishing you the jolliest of holidays.
Dennis (Narrator, Summer.Chief) and Kimberly (Narrator, Winter, Daughter)
Fri, 22 Nov 2013 00:50:00 +0000
"The Crocodile, The Zebras and the Hyena" is a story that we adapted from a traditional tale related by Likua Kambembe, an African storyteller. He's a member of the !Xun (We dare you to try to pronounce it) Council of Elders, and helps direct the Kulimatji Project, which preserves the tribe's folklore.
This is an origin story; i.e., a story that's intended to explain how something originated. In this case, it's about how the crocodile came to hide in the water and ambush other animals.
We come to you from Greenville, SC, after a busy couple of weeks presenting performances and workshops for school and library residences, thanks to Target grants. And we returned for our third engagement at The National Theatre in Washington, DC.
Happy Listening and Happy Thanksgiving!
Dennis (Narrator, Crocodile, Zebra 2) and Kimberly (Narrator, Rabbit, Kangaroo, Zebra 1, Hyena)
Sun, 20 Oct 2013 04:27:00 +0000
From Uganda comes this tale about how two jungle critters who were once friends became foes, and in the process tells why frogs have no tails and why lizards have puffy cheeks. It seems appropriate because like the frog and the lizard, we recently swung on a rope from a tree when we went ziplining in the back yard of some friends near Lima, NY, where we recently performed.
We come to you from Abington, MA, where we've been geting into the fall spirit by performing at a haunted attraction, as we love to do at this time of year. And we ask your help in finding a couple of stories requested by a young fan who left us an absolutely adorable message.
Dennis (Narrator, Frog) and Kimberly (Narrator, Lizard)
Mon, 16 Sep 2013 21:41:00 +0000
"Talk", from Ghana in Africa, is a cumulative tale (meaning that phrases are repeated and added to as in "The House That Jack Built") about what happens when inanimate objects start to talk. For one thing, you feel like you're in a Disney movie. But also, this story could be considered a fable about how earth-shaking events affect everyone, no matter what their occupation or social status. Or a fable about how some people consder something weird, and others find it normal. Or just a plain fun story.
We come to you from West Warwick, Rhode Island (It's a suburb of Providence like everything else in Rhode Island), where we've been helping our son Zephyr get ready to open his own haunted house for Halloween, as he's dreamed of doing for years. We'll also be performing at this and/or another haunted house as our schedule allows.
The summer season has wound down, and now we're winding up for fall -- we have a busy scheule coming up, thanks to 12 Target grants. We hope to see you at a show.
Dennis (Narrator, Farmer, Net, Bather, Stool) and Kimberly (Narrator, Yam, Dog, Tree, Branch, Stone, Weaver, Fisherman, Chief)
Tue, 20 Aug 2013 21:35:00 +0000
From Jewish tradition somewhere in Eastern Europe comes this charming and inspiring tale about... well, charming and inspiring tradition. As popularized by the picture book of the same name by Phoebe Gilman, this story tells of a gift made by a grandfather for a grandchild (in Gilman's version, the child is a boy; in our version, she isn't) -- and subsequently remade several times. It begins as a blanket, then as it is worn out, it is transformed into smaller and smaller items. In the process, it delivers a yarn (pun intended) about preserving one's heritage and being resourceful with available resources.
We come to you from Chicopee, Masachusetts, near Springfield -- birthplace of basketball and Dr. Seuss (at nearly the same time). We wonder if Dr. Seuss was a bouncing baby boy. Anyway, we recently took a jaunt down to Connecticut, where we attended some live theatre. First, we saw the musical "LMNOP" in Chester, Connecticut. Adapted from the novel Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn (a former college classmate of Dennis), the story is a sort of satirical modern fairy tale about a country where letters of the alphabet are banned one at a time, making it very hard for people to communicate. It's a fun story especially for language lovers, and the production was outstanding, with a cast of great singers.
We also attended two performances in New London by the National Theatre of the Deaf, whom we've been wanting to catch in action for years. We saw two performances of the same show so we could carefully observe the sign language used by people who use it every day. They did an entertaining presentation of fables and comic skits. Like many of us in theatre, they make something from nothing -- or at least almost nothing.
Dennis (Narrator, Grandpa) and Kimberly (Narrator, Mother, Girl)
(Photo: Nathan Hale Schoolhouse in New London, CT)
Thu, 18 Jul 2013 01:32:00 +0000
"The Lion and the Three Cows" is a fable from Afghanistan – the first Afghani story we've ever presented – about discord and mistrust, standing together versus falling alone. We come to you from Virginia, where we're doing a return engagement at 4 libraries before moving on to North Carolina and New Jersey.
We've just finished our Midwest stint, after which we zipped across country to Baltimore to attend the annual convention of the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) in order to talk to principals about our assembly programs and residencies. The convention was held right downtown, next to the waterfront berthing the historic ship USS Constellation, next to Camden Yards where the Orioles were swatting at baseballs, and near the birthplace of Babe Ruth.
Dennis (Narrator, White Cow, Lion) and Kimberly (Narrator, Black Cow, Brown Cow)
Mon, 17 Jun 2013 21:58:00 +0000
"Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears" is a story from Africa that explains this little mystery. Perhaps knowing why they do it will make it a little more tolerable this summer, but we doubt it. This is an example of a cumulative tale, which means the plot keeps repeating and building -- think of "The House the Jack Built" and similar poems and songs.
And while we're on the subject of insects that sing, we mention cicadas, those elusive insects that hide underground and only emerge every few years -- some species only appear once every 17 years!
We come to you from Joplin, MO, a town we were last in two years ago, volunteering with the recovery effort after the devastating tornado hit. We're happy to see that the town has been mostly rebuilt and is thriving.
We've just opened our 25th summer tour, premiering our new show in Rio Vista, CA, then dashing off to Hope, AR. We have several more shows in Arkansas and one in the Chicago area before heading to the East Coast.
Dennis (Narrator, Lizard, Rabbit, Lion) and Kimberly (Narrator, Mosquito, Snake, Crow, Monkey, Owl)
Wed, 15 May 2013 23:36:00 +0000
It's a sneak preview of Tops and Bottoms, one of our new stories for the upcoming season, and aren't you lucky to be hearing it now? Hailing from Scandinavia, this is a variation of a popular tale in many cultures, including the Southern U.S., where it was often passed down by African-Americans, and it has been published in a popular picture book.
The story is of a type known as a trickster tale, which generally involves a smaller and weaker animal getting the better of a larger and stronger one. Examples can be found in Native American lore, which often features the Coyote Trickster.
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We come to you from Portland (the one in Oregon, not the one in Maine – or Nebraska, if there is one there), having come up from Los Angeles and vicinity since last we met. We presented several shows in the Bay Area and Northern California (including the second and third of our school residences funded by Target).
Despite our sometimes hectic schedule, we managed to find time to take a simulated parachute jump at iFly before taking the long drive up the coast and through the redwoods to Oregon and Washington. All while rehearsing, sewing, composing music and making props for our new production opening next month.
Dennis (Narrator, Bear) and Kimberly (Narrator, Fox)
Mon, 18 Mar 2013 00:48:00 +0000
In honor of the Cherry Blossom Festival and Frog Month (you do celebrate that every year, don't you?) we bring you "The Two Frogs", a fable from Japan. We come to you from Holbrook, Arizona as we make our way back to the West Coast. Along the way, we visited The Blue Hole in Santa Rosa NM, The Mesalands Dinosaur Musuem in Tucumcari NM and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR.
Catch an upcoming show live on stage in Los Angeles, Irvine, Palo Alto, Modesto, orTiburon, California in March and April.
Find out how to bring Act!vated to your school for free for two days.
Dennis (Narrator, Osaka Frog, Boy) and Kimberly (Narrator, Kyoto Frog, Mother, Collector)
Wed, 20 Feb 2013 17:05:00 +0000
"The Farmer and the Werewolf" is a tale from Ireland, a country that traditionally has spun many yarns about such supernatural and sometimes frightening critters. The werewolf in this tale, however, is not an entirely vicious monster; he’s also a human who is appalled by his darker side, and wants to make amends. This is also one of those folk tales about the importance of keeping a secret, and the sometimes dire consequences of failing to do so-- a story somewhere between Ali Baba and Lohengrin. As it happens, this motif figures prominently in "The Bridge and the Dream", a Middle Eastern story that we're currently preparing for our new production that opens this summer.
We just spent a week conducting a residency at Holy Family School in Jacksonville, Florida, and what a memorable week it was. After presenting two performances Monday morning, we settled in for a week of teaching workshops in theatre arts, writing, mask making, folk dancing and other skills related to our final project: a performance by the entire student body of our story of "How the Ice Cream Cone Was Invented". That's right: we turned what is normally a 2-person story into a 452-person story.
While we were in Florida, we returned to St. Augustine and the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, with its specimens of all 23 known species of crocodilian (the only facility in the world to have all of them). This time, something new has been added: Crocodile Crossing, a zip-line/ canopy tour above the reptiles. They might look up at you eagerly hoping you'll fall, but it’s quite secure. Good thing: these fanged beasts may not be quite as terrifying as werewolves, but they’re close.
Dennis (Narrator, Farmer, Animals)and Kimberly (Wife, Werewolf, Neighbors, Animals)
Tue, 15 Jan 2013 17:37:00 +0000
"The Girl Who Married a Snake" is from Bhutan, an Asian country that borders China and India. The tale bears a certain resemblance to the Frog Prince story types common in Europe, except that even when the good guys live happily ever after, the story continues until the bad guys get their comeuppance. We present it especially for Chinese New Year, on Feb. 10, when the Year of the Snake comes slithering in.
We come to you from Stone Mountain Park, Georgia. Stone Mountain is not exactly a mountain, but it is one huge rock, and only about 10 percent of it is actually what you see jutting up some 800 feet above the ground. You can hike up to the top (we did) or you can take a funicular car (we did). That's one of those bus-size cars suspended from a cable.
Stone Mountain has many fun activities during the summer months, but during this time of year, about the only thing available is Snow Mountain, where you can go snow tubing in 70 degree weather (we did). And marvel at the largest bas-relief in the world, a 90 foot by 190 foot carving of three Confederate leaders.
Dennis (Woodcutter, Priest, Prince, Neighbor) and Kimberly (Narrator, Snakes, Daughters)
Sun, 21 Dec 2008 20:08:00 +0000
“The Elves and the Envious Neighbor” is a story from Japan that we bring in especially for the holidays. Not that it's a holiday story, mind you. But it does feature elves, and indeed elves who give a gift... by taking something away! It also features a Scrooge-like character driven by greed and envy. In some respects, it's similar to “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”. We come to you from Tallahassee, Florida, where we don't exactly expect to have a white Christmas. But it still looks very like that season around here, because we're surrounded by Fraser Firs, Canaan Firs, Scotch Pines and White Pines, oh my. We're babysitting a Christmas tree lot at the Tallahassee Mall, where we have the unheard-of opportunity to remain parked in one spot for more than a month—with free electricity thrown in to boot—as we start making preparations for next summer's tour. Yes, we've been away from the podcast universe for a while—since August, to be exact. And we bring you up to date on what's been happening in the meantime, including our fun, fascinating, productive October in Salem, where we met up with the LOUD Family, the subjects of the TV miniseries “Six for the Road”. And we answer that burning question on everyone's mind: where in the world is Zephyr? By the way, did you know that you can track the progress of Santa's sleigh online on Christmas Eve? We've been doing it for years. Amazing what they can do with radar these days. To all of you from all two of us, we wish you the happiest of holiday seasons, and a fantastic 2009. Happy Listening! Dennis (Man, Neighbor and Elves) and Kimberly (Narrator, King and other elves)
Fri, 29 Aug 2008 15:55:00 +0000Stonehenge, Easter Island and the Old Stone Mill. What do they all have in common besides being situated on islands? They're all mysterious stone structures that have generated all kinds of colorful legends. The first two date to ancient times, the third to Colonial or possibly even Viking times. In the old days, folks were fascinated by rock formations that were even remotely out of the ordinary, and their imaginations ran wild, weaving fantastic stories about how such formations used to be giants, animals or spirits. It is one such formation that inspired our story on this podcast, "The Legend of the Rollright Stones". We present this tale without benefit of Zephyr, who's in Oregon attending Not Back to School Camp, an annual gathering for homeschoolers. We come to you from North Attleboro, south of Boston. Our story selection was prompted by our recent visit to Newport, RI (our first time ever to go there, and it isn't often that we visit a place for the first time anymore), where we saw the nation's oldest synagogue, the nation's oldest lending library, and Fort Adams Park, site of the annual Newport Folk Festival, which has showcased such legendary talents as Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger (a co-founder of the event) and Joan Baez. Oh yes, and we also saw the Old Stone Mill, the third stone oddity mentioned above. Nobody knows who built it or when or why, but there has been speculation that Norsemen under Leif Erickson erected it when they allegedly dropped by a millennium ago – its style is similar to that of certain Scandinavian churches. Another popular theory is that it was built as a mill by Rhode Island colonial governor Benedict Arnold, great-grandfather of the more famous (and infamous) individual bearing that name. (Supporters of the Viking theory point out that even if Arnold did use it as a mill, that doesn't mean he built it, and it could have been much older.) Still another hypothesis is that it was a watchtower constructed or used by a Portuguese explorer around 1500. Hey, maybe all three are sort of true. We breezed through Newport on our bicycles as part of a 10-day bike marathon, starting from Norton, MA, then proceeding to Plymouth, Cape Cod, southern MA, then Newport and back up to Norton. We covered more than 320 miles in all, spending the nights in a tent and buying food at produce stands. What a great way to see the country! As long as you don't run over any big rocks. Happy Listening! Dennis (Farmer, Villager), Kimberly (Narrator, Fairy, Villager) and Zephyr (Marcel Marceau impersonator) P.S. Apologies for the audio quality of the past two podcasts. We've had major technical gremlins, which we've been struggling to put back into their cages. Hopefully, all will be peachy keen next time. Links: Read about Family on Bikes as they travel from Alaska to Argen[...]
Thu, 14 Aug 2008 17:13:00 +0000
"The Jester and the Straw Roof" is a trickster tale from India about a poor man who gets his due by exercising his wits - in effect, by playing a joke on someone rich and powerful, which is appropriate, since this individual is a joker by trade. But we trade the traditional concept of a court jester for the persona of Batman's nemesis The Joker, as interpreted by the late Heath Ledger, and ably imitated by our resident mimic Zephyr. We also are aided and abetted this week by our friend Cassia, since we come to you from her hometown in Massachusetts.
We talk about the tour that Dennis and Zephyr took of Valley Forge National Park, just north of Philadelphia. During the winter of 1777-78, Gen. George Washington and his men took a very different kind of tour of this property, a military stand to fight back the British invasion. It was a harsh winter and the troops worked under extreme hardships, often having inadequate clothing and little food.
Even Washington had it rough, sharing cramped quarters, with several members of his staff - although he certainly was better off than the troops. At least he was in a fine old house with servants and a comfortable bed; they on the other hand, slept in crude little log huts - or on the ground while they were constructing these!
We were able to see some very accurate replicas of these huts, and they looked anything but inviting, in any kind of weather. We also toured Gen. Washington's painstakingly restored house on the Schuylkill River, furnished just as it might have been when he was using it, down to the pens and papers on the desk.
We also mention the alternating days of bike touring that Kimberly and Dennis have been doing from Valley Forge to Bristol, CT, getting in as many as 65 miles a day - often on very hilly terrain. At least the soldiers never had do that!
Dennis (Maharajah), Kimberly (narrator), Zephyr (Jester/Joker) and Cassia (the wife)
Learn more about Valley Forge
Thu, 31 Jul 2008 04:01:00 +0000
"Stone Soup" is not only a popular folk tale with variants in many cultures and countries, it's also become a proverbial expression of sorts -- not to mention the name of a popular magazine for children. In some versions of the tale, the cornucopian object might be a nail, a button, or even an axe. And in some versions there is only one miserly individual involved, as opposed to a whole village. But there is something particularly resonant about the image of getting nourishment from a stone, and even more so about being able to feed an entire community, even if it involves a little deception.
One reason for the story's endurance is that it can be interpreted in a number of ways. There's the concept, for instance, of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. There's the importance of pitching in to help your neighbors -- it takes a village to feed a village. There's the principle of making something from nothing, or at least being productive in difficult times. And of course there's the motif of applying psychology to encourage cooperation -- prompting people to contribute by appealing to their pride in creating a desirable outcome, rather than just telling them their efforts are needed (somewhat similar to Tom Sawyer's trick with the fence.) We come to you from the outskirts of Philadelphia, where we've returned to perform again at the Free Library of Philadelphia. Zephyr rejoins us after spending a couple of weeks in Winston-Salem, while Dennis and Kimberly report on their recent visit to Pennsylvania's capital city, Harrisburg, where they took a pleasant bike ride on a 20-mile loop that took them one of the finest nature preserves they've ever seen.
Dennis (Soldier, villagers), Kimberly (Narrator, Villagers), Zephyr (Villagers, including the Joker)
Thu, 17 Jul 2008 04:01:00 +0000"The Peacock and the Crane" is one of Aesop's fables, and (surprise) it has a little lesson to teach: namely that it's wiser to make good use of the skill you have than to boast or make a display of yourself. The peacock has long been a symbol of vanity and ostentatiousness, and it may have been Aesop who started that tradition. NBC seemed to have had something else in mind, however, when it adopted a peacock for its network logo during the early days of color programming. We come to you, minus Zephyr, from West Virginia, where we are having a busy week during our summer library tour, helping youngsters "Catch the Reading Bug" (that's the theme of the summer reading program for many of the nation's libraries this year). Our first West Virginia performance was in Point Pleasant, so named because it is a pleasant point at which the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers come together. Up until 42 years ago, the town was best known as the site of the first battle between Native Americans and European settlers, which occurred here in 1774. As usual, the Natives (led by Chief Cornstalk) got the worst end of it. There's an impressive mural of the battle painted on the wall that runs along the riverfront by the national park that commemorates the event. Okay, that was the town's old claim to fame. But in November 1966 it was the site of the reputed appearance of a strange creature that came to be known as the Mothman. He stood about 8 feet tall and looked like a cross between a human and a moth. He may have been of extraterrestrial origin, or he may have just been the Reading Bug. Or he may have been someone's hyperactive imagination. We can't know for certain, because he did not strut around like a peacock, but hid in the dark like a moth. But whatever he was, he is now folklore, and that's where we come in. There is a life-size statue of him in downtown Point Pleasant, so you can form your own theories. And be thankful that it wasn't you who ran into him. Happy Listening! Dennis (Crane, Farmer) and Kimberly (Narrator, Peacock) Comments and folktale requests 206-426-0436. Links: The Coyote and Eagle can be found on the Out of the Bag audio collection. And here is a kachina activity sheet to print and color (.PDF) Award winning storyteller Sean Buvala offers teleconferences and coaching for storytellers. Reading bug PSA courtesy of the Collaborative Summer Library Program [...]
Thu, 03 Jul 2008 17:38:00 +0000In folk tales, as in cartoons, the laws of physics and biology often are violated without a second thought. Things get blown up, and then are fine; coyotes run off the edge of a cliff and hover in mid-air a moment before plunging; and mice have their tails cut off and then restored. As in the British story "The Cat and the Mouse", which is based on the cumulative list motif, similar to the nursery rhyme "The House That Jack Built". The best-known version of the story is itself told in rhyme by folklorist Joseph Jacobs, who included it in a volume of English stories published in 1890. And it was this version that was familiar to our winner in the Be A Character Contest, a young man from Indiana named Aiden. He requested this story, so we made him the mouse (Ouch! Sorry about that.) But of course we weren't content to copy someone else's version of the tale (tail) despite its appealing rhyming rhythmic lines. We devised, as usual, our own madcap, quasi-improvised retelling.We bring this podcast to you from Quincy, IL and Hannibal, MO, where we return to perform at libraries in both cities. And the libraries, we're happy to say, were not damaged by the recent flooding of the Mississippi River, though some parts of both cities definitely were soaked. So far, all systems are go for the annual Tom Sawyer Days held during the Independence Day weekend in Hannibal. And we're back to participate for the first time in several years.We also tell you all about our recent encounter in Hawaii with Wally Amos, the famous cookie guru who now is heavily involved with promoting reading, particularly reading aloud to children. Not only does he read to kids himself, he is chair of the Read It Loud Foundation, which has a goal of enticing at least 5 million parents to read to their kids each day for at least 10 minutes. He donates 10 percent of the profits from his cookie stores in Kailua and Honolulu to this endeavor, and makes promotional appearances across the country to promote it -- including Savannah, GA., where Read It Loud! Savannah already has enjoyed considerable success. One of the activities of the program in Savannah is to donate a book to the parents of each child born in the community. It's never too early to start!We salute Wally Amos and Read It Loud for the admirable work they do -- which, after all, is very much in line with the work we do ourselves.Happy Listening (whatever your age),Dennis (Narrator, Cow, Farmer's Wife, Butcher, Painter), Kimberly (Cat, Farmer, Baker), and Zephyr (Mouse)Link: Folktales to Read Out Loud[...]
Thu, 19 Jun 2008 04:01:00 +0000
"The Rough-Skinned Girl" is a Native American story told among some of the tribes in the Great Lakes region of the U.S. and Canada, particularly the Miq-Mak and Algonquin tribes. The title (Oochegeaska in Miq-Mak) also can be translated as "Burnt-Skinned Girl". This is one of innumerable versions of the Cinderella motif found around the world; but in this case the similarity is more than coincidence. Natives apparently heard the popular French tale, as related by French trappers, and adapted it to their own culture.
We present the story with the aid of our guest star Mary, who's been a friend all her life (literally -- she attended Zephyr's first birthday party when we lived in San Francisco). She spent 10 days traveling with us under battle conditions, joining us in Reno as we were frantically trying to get our new show together, accompanying us on our 2000 mile dash to Arkansas, then aiding and abetting us during our show's first two performances in Hot Springs and Conway, AR. What a trooper.
But once the pressure was off, we managed to have some fun, absorbing the local color along historic Bath House Row in Hot Springs, where we also attended an open mic poetry reading at The Poets Loft, the longest running open mic poetry night in the world. Mary wasn't content merely to observe, but also got up and read one of her own poems, followed by her a cappella rendering of "Goodnight Irene" in Japanese.
We also spent an evening at The Brauhaus listening to the music of our friends The Itinerant Locals. And in Little Rock we took Mary to the Clinton Library and Central High School, site of the landmark 1957 school integration conflict. Now she's off to The Bay Area again, and we're off again on another summer tour. See you there!
Happy Listening! Dennis (Father, Hunter), Kimberly (Sister, Hunter's Sister), Zephyr (Narrator, Sister) and Mary (Rough-Skinned Girl)
Tue, 03 Jun 2008 20:34:00 +0000
Aloha! That's a word that can mean “Hello”, “Goodbye”, or “I love you”. But in this case, it means yes, we finally took our trip to Hawaii. We had a glorious week packed with activity on the island of Oahu, and we've devoted this podcast to telling you about some of the things we did, interlaced with some sounds we captured at the Polynesian Culture Center.
We spent a day at the Polynesian Culture Center, soaking in the sights, sounds and tastes (a luau was included in our package) of several Pacific Island cultures. We visited Pearl Harbor, where we stood on a platform that overlooks the USS Arizona, sunk in the water a few feet below the surface.We went snorkeling at Hanauma Bay coral reef, where we were face to face with exotic species of fish we'd never seen before – Zephyr even had a close encounter with a huge sea turtle. We also went swimming at Waikiki Beach and Kailua Beach, where Kimberly used to swim when she lived in Hawaii as a child. And in Kailua we met Wally Amos, the founder of the original Famous Amos cookie company, who now owns a cookie shop there, and also is active in promoting reading to children.
Now we're back at “home” (I.e., the Continental U.S.) and it's crunch time to get our new show ready for its premiere on June 11. We're now a two-person act onstage, since Zephyr recently retired, but you can still hear his voice on the podcasts.
Our apologies for the tardiness of this post. In addition to our trip, we've faced a mountain of technical difficulties lately.
Barefoot Dennis, Flower-Haired Kimberly and Sunburned Zephyr
Fri, 09 May 2008 01:52:00 +0000
"The Donkey and the cucumbers", a simple little folktale from India, is somewhat similar to Aesop's fable about the fox and the crow, a warning that sometimes crowing too loudly will cause you to have to eat crow later. We enact it with the aid of our special guest star Cassia, who is visiting us for a few days from Massachusetts. Who ever heard of a red-haired donkey? But it was her real-life fondness for cucumbers (some might say an obsession with cucumbers) that prompted our selection of this story.
We come to you from the beautiful city of Seattle and vicinity, where we're presenting a series of performances for the King County Library System. Previously we were in Portland, where Zephyr and Cassia met up with some friends, and dropped in at Powells, the fabled bookstore that may be the world's largest.
And speaking of books (which Dennis keeps doing in this podcast) we had to put in a plug for a new book called "50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth". We know, there's already been a book by that title. But this one, by the same author (John Javna, assisted by his teenage son and daughter), is not just a revised edition of that bestseller, but a whole new volume that addresses the realities of the Twenty-First Century more effectively. We're recommending it not just because John's a friend of ours, but because it's an informative and important book.
Dennis (Washerman and Watchman), Kimberly (Narrator), Zephyr (Fox) and Cassia (Donkey)
Thu, 24 Apr 2008 20:18:00 +0000
So how did you sleep last night? Did a lump in your bed cause you to toss and turn? If this is ever a problem, you should be grateful that you're not as delicate as the princess in "The Princess and the Pea", the story we present this week. This tale was written by the celebrated Danish author Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875), although he probably based it on a genuine folklore motif. First published in 1835, the story was immediately popular and has been translated, adapted, retold and mangled many times over the years. In 1959 the musical adaptation "Once Upon a Mattress" opened on Broadway and became a smash hit, further popularizing the tale. And more recently, a fractured version called "The Princess and the Bowling Ball" appeared in "The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales".
As usual, however, we do not fracture this story, though we may bruise it a bit. We always stay faithful to the original plot, while injecting and infecting it with our own colorful style and humor that will appeal to contemporary audiences. We enact this story with our special guest Sarah, one of our "adopted daughters" who's spending a week on the road with us. She's both a fellow homeschooler and a fellow RVer. And no, our story choice was not inspired by her own sleeping habits. She is not a princess, and in fact could probably sleep on a bowling ball.
With Sarah in tow, we're having a busy April performing in Northern California; we've been particularly in demand for National Library Week. We've been revisiting our roots in the San Francisco Bay Area, where we originated nearly 20 years ago. And where, once upon a time, Kimberly was in a production of "Once Upon A Mattress".
Dennis (Prince), Kimberly (Princess, Royal Attendant), Zephyr (King, Other Princesses) and Sarah (Queen, Other Princesses)
Sat, 29 Mar 2008 17:14:00 +0000
Aesop, according to tradition, was a Greek slave who flourished around 550 BC and told many fables, i.e. tales with a moral at the end. Many of these tales had animal characters, and many were actually much older than Aesop. In other words, if Aesop actually lived, or even if he didn't, he borrowed other stories in addition to possibly making up some of his own; additionally, it appears he wrote new stories long after his death, as many stories attributed to him were picked up from later generations and other cultures. We herewith present one of the stories he may have written during, before or after his lifetime, a simple fable about self-reliance that we, as you might notice, have embellished just a bit.
We thought this story appropriate for the moment, because it deals with vehicle problems of a sort, and we've just experienced vehicle problems of many sorts driving from Albuquerque to Las Vegas. We include a special guest, Zephyr's friend Koree, who is visiting us for a few days from Arizona. We include an account of our stay in the Glitz Capital of the world, where Zephyr attended a haunted attraction convention, and the prices are high enough to spook anyone.
Dennis (Farmer), Kimberly (Mule, Woman), Zephyr (Hercules, Man) and Koree (Woman)
Thu, 20 Mar 2008 18:37:00 +0000
In episode 75 we announced the "Be A Character" contest. Here are the details:
We will name a folktale character after you or one of your friends in episode 80. You can be the hero! Or choose to be the villain if you prefer. All who comment will be entered into a drawing. You may enter as many times as you like. Comments do need to be relevant to the podcast (no spam) and may be posted about any episode or the show in general.
To enter all you need to do is leave a comment or review at one of the following sites.
Please leave a way that we can get back in touch with you. If you don't want to leave your email on a site just send us an email so if you win we can find out what your preferences are. Otherwise we'll just do what we want (insert evil laugh here). It is wise to send us an email just so we don't miss anything. We do not share email address with anyone.
We typically do a podcast every other week. But every now and then we are sneaky and throw in an extra one. We like to record them on Mondays and air them on Thursdays. So if we stick to a normal schedule you will have until May 19th to enter the contest.
Thu, 13 Mar 2008 22:14:00 +0000The poor bat has an evil image that it doesn't deserve. Because it's active at night, and hides in dark places like caves, and has a rather sinister appearance, it has inspired fear for ages. And Dracula wasn't exactly a helpful public relations person, either. But in fact bats are quite harmless, unless they have rabies -- which would put any critter in a bad mood.
Sat, 08 Mar 2008 03:18:00 +0000
Here is the video to accompany podcast #74. Watch Kimberly zipline through the Trees at Banning Mills on YouTube.(object) (embed)
The camera had to be strapped to the outside of our hand and could not be held or focused when we were on the zipline. But we think it still turned out pretty well. Hope you enjoy the ride!
Sat, 01 Mar 2008 21:46:00 +0000Dreams play an important role in many tribal cultures, providing a revered source of advice, enlightenment and law. Our rendition "The Dreaming Tree", a considerably "trunk-ated" version of a folk mini-saga from Brazil, illustrates how seriously indigenous peoples take this nocturnal activity. It also makes use of the tree as a symbol of wisdom, a motif common to many folk traditions. And there's a reminder that even a good thing can be carried to dangerous excess. This story about a potent tree seemed especially appropriate because we recently got a very good bird's eye view of some very nice trees, not to mention beautiful Snake Creek (which we just mentioned) at Historic Banning Mills, near Whitesburg, GA. It's called Historic Banning Mills because historically there were mills here (textile, paper, wood and others), and the ruins still stand. But now there's a rustic lodge up on the hill overlooking the creek, a serene location for a romantic getaway, a conference, or a wedding. At certain times of the year, the place is also abuzz with all manner of outdoor activities, including hiking, horseback riding, golf, skeet shooting (what did those poor skeets ever do to us?) and kayaking. And there's a very intriguing-looking ropes course on the grounds -- or rather in the trees. (If you don't know, a ropes course is a series of physical obstacles that involve climbing, designed to challenge your courage and tenacity and resourcefulness. If you don't know the ropes when you start, you'll learn before it's over.) Zipping Through the Treetops But the piece de resistance is what they call the Canopy Tour, a guided walk through the treetops on bridges too narrow even for ballerinas (though Kimberly did a pretty decent impression of one) and even, in some cases, a single cable. But oh yes, we almost forgot. There are also four ziplines, which are cables stretched from trees and/or towers on which the truly daring and/or truly insane soar at speeds up to 60 m.p.h. at altitudes of up to 220 feet. And you don't even need a pilot's license. It was the most exhilaratingly terrifying experience we've had in ages, and we can't wait to do it again -- this time with Zephyr, who was off in Massachusetts at the time. The Inns at Historic Banning Mills, and the Canopy Tour, are family owned and operated, by some right friendly folks. We highly recommend this place. (Note: When you visit their website, we recommend the multimedia tour, which us[...]
Fri, 22 Feb 2008 19:17:00 +0000"Don't Ever Look at a Mermaid" is a story from England and vicinity, about a mermaid's infatuation with a mortal man; and like last week's story, it entails humans, or in this case, humanoids, assuming animal form. The mermaid motif, which is particularly common in Europe but also crops up in other cultures around the world (including Native American), may have inspired Hans Christian Andersen to write "The Little Mermaid" -- which in turn inspired Disney, as so many stories have, to put the same title on a very different story. In this version, the mermaid seems to represent temptation, which, like the mermaid herself, never completely goes away but reappears every so often.
Thu, 14 Feb 2008 05:01:00 +0000"The Castle in the Lake" from Tibet is a tale about a poor herdsman who undertakes a quest to change his fortunes. Like many other stories from many other cultures, he does so by submerging himself into a body of water. And the story also includes an animal transformation motif and a concealed identity motif, rather similar to "Lohengrin" and "East of the Sun and West of the Moon".
Thu, 31 Jan 2008 05:01:00 +0000Saving Spring - a folktale"Saving Spring", a Scandinavian folktale, is one of numerous stories from around the world dealing with the cycle of the seasons -- such as, for example, the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone. "Naturally", since this particular tale comes from Scandinavia -- a region that consists of Denmark, Norway and Sweden (sometimes Finland and Iceland are lumped with them as well) -- should revolve around a harsh winter, which is something they get a lot of in those parts. But we're not getting it in the parts where we currently are. This podcast was recorded at Port Canaveral, Florida, where the cruise ships leave from and come back to -- including the Disney line and the Carnival Line. We could watch these enormous vessels depart in the afternoon, floating by so close that we could just about touch them with a fishing pole. Families On The RoadWe were there for the third sort-of-annual sort-of-rally of Families on the Road (FOTR), an online community of families who live on the road full-time. And the folks who came to this one truly fit the bill. And there were oodles of them, too -- at least 15 families, making this by far the best-attended event yet of this kind. And we of course made use of as many extra voices as we could round up to be guest stars on this podcast. When you got talent like this, you gotta use 'em! We crammed about 25 people into one RV to record this episode. Below are some of the families we interviewed (in no particular order): The Davis Family (Stephanie and Kayla)The Evans Family (Kati, Auvi and Conner) The Elliot Family (Sue and Savannah) The Whitcomb Family (Tim, Sue, Tyler and Natalie) The Miller Family (Lara and Joey) The Smythe Family (Deb and Jonathon) CAST in order of appearanceAnnouncer ..... Abby BennettNarrators ...... Zoe Evans, Dennis Goza, Kimberly Goza, Cindy WhitcombMayor .......... Tim WhitcombOscar ..... Zephyr GozaGreta ..... Auvi EvansWolf ..... Conner EvansAnimals and Crowd .... an RV full of FOTRGuard #1 and #4 ..... Tyler WhitcombGuard #2 ..... Gayle BennettGuard #3..... Cindy WhitcombWinter ..... Chris ElliotSpring .... Sue Elliot Happy Listening!Dennis, Kimberly & Zephyr [...]
Thu, 17 Jan 2008 05:01:00 +0000"The Fisherman and His Wife" is an old story that comes from the British Isles, among many other places, and in many other forms. (Notice how it's always something like "The Fisherman and his Wife" instead of "The Wife and Her Fisherman"? There's no doubt that sexism abounds in folklore.) It's a cautionary tale about greed and keeping up with the Joneses, one of those stories about an enchanted animal that grants wishes. Bet you've encountered one of those at some time.
Wed, 02 Jan 2008 23:56:00 +0000"The Frog Prince" from Germany is one of the many tales collected by The Brothers Grimm; it deals with the importance of keeping your word and also cautions that appearances can be deceiving. We go with the original version, which unlike the more popularly known version, does not involve kissing the frog. We just didn't have the mouthwash handy.
Fri, 21 Dec 2007 17:16:00 +0000Since there are evergreen trees everywhere this time of year, even here in sweltering Florida (if they're store-bought), we thought it appropriate to present "Why the Evergreen Tree is Ever Green", a fable that probably originated in Canada and illustrates the rewards of being kind to others in need -- an important thing to remember all year long, though it receives special attention at this time of year.
Thu, 06 Dec 2007 05:01:00 +0000It's Jack Sparrow getting into trouble big time. No, we don't mean Johnny Depp (although Zephyr gives a big nod to him in his performance of the character); the folks at Disney have a habit of borrowing from older sources, and it's quite likely that the name Jack Sparrow came from this African-American tale related by noted author Joel Chandler Harris. A simple fable about the dangers of gossiping and meddling in other peoples' affairs, this story is included among Harris' writings about the fictional character Uncle Remus, a sort of African-American version of Aesop. An accomplished folklorist who heard these charming animal yarns from slaves when he was a teenager working on a plantation, Harris has come under fire in more recent times for the racist overtones in his heavy usage of southern black dialect and also for the very name Uncle Remus -- "uncle" was a demeaning term sometimes applied to slaves by their owners. But hey, he lived in racist times; and in view of that, his tone was perhaps far less insulting than it might have been. Harris was born in 1848 in Eatonton, GA., which we just happened to pass through on a Sunday morning in December, so we couldn't pass up the Uncle Remus Museum, with its statue of Brother Rabbit ("Br'er" Rabbit) in the yard. The museum, which features mementos from the life, times and work of Harris, is housed in a building comprised of two former slave cabins joined together. (You can see the seams on the sides.) It's on the property once occupied by the family of Joseph Sidney Turner, the "Little Boy" in the "Tales of Uncle Remus". We also dropped in at the Laurel and Hardy Museum in the hometown of Norvell "Oliver" Hardy, Harlem, GA. This town is so proud of its celebrated native son that the water tower sports a picture of him and his skinny partner, Stanley Jefferson -- who gave himself the shorter name of Stan Laurel so it would fit on signs better. This pair of comedy titans made over 100 films together of varying lengths over a period of about 30 years, and were also the best of friends. And they had a major influence on virtually every comic performer to come afterward -- including, no doubt, us. Happy listening, Dennis (Narrator and Fox), Kimberly (Rabbit) and Zephyr (Jack Sp[...]
Thu, 22 Nov 2007 18:13:00 +0000"The Crowded Hut" is a Yiddish tale about a man who lived with his family in such a dwelling, and liked to complain because it was too cramped. He sought the advice of a wise old woman (or a Rabbi in some versions) who offered some rather unorthodox advice. This story seemed, for reasons that become apparent on listening to it, to be appropriate for Thanksgiving, which is the day on which this episode is being posted.Several years before the first Thanksgiving was celebrated by settlers in Massachusetts, another group of rugged immigrants established the first English colony in the new world by the James River in Virginia, a settlement near present-day Williamsburg that came to be known as Jamestown. Since 1957, Jamestown Settlement has provided visitors a colorful glimpse into the beginnings of our nation. The site features not only an extensive indoor museum, but also replicas of Fort James, the Powhatan Indian Village, and the three ships on which the colonists arrived. Hands-on activities include opportunities to "steer" one of the ships, and to help dig out a dugout canoe, which the Native Americans fashioned from logs with the aid of fire.If you come here before April 2008, you can view a major, one-time, yearlong showcase called "The World of 1607". To commemorate the colony's 400th birthday, the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation sent word to other nations that they were seeking artifacts from that time frame for a special exhibit. They expected SOME response, but they were absolutely SWAMPED with items from all over -- too many to exhibit at once, so they were divided into four parcels, to be displayed in rotation. It's amazing to think that while John Smith was struggling to get a new country started, Shakespeare was in his prime.The Settlement portrays the experiences and contributions of three cultures: the English, the Native American, and the African. Slaves on a ship bound for Central America were seized by British privateers (a fancy word for pirates with a permit) and redirected to Virginia, where their forced labor helped the new civilization survive and thrive. Their chapter in the story is often given scant notice in the history books, so it's especially welcome to see so much coverage of it here.We do hear a gr[...]
Thu, 08 Nov 2007 05:01:00 +0000We've just concluded our month of being a family of four rather than three; for the month of October and even for a piece of November, we "adopted" Zephyr's friend Libby from the San Francisco Bay Area. This week, rather than bring you a story as usual, we catch you up on what we've been up to during the busy three weeks (Yes, three. Yikes!) since our last podcast. And Libby gives her impressions of what it's like to be a fulltime traveler. Well no, she doesn't really do impressions of us, but she does tell of her experiences with us. It was a fairly busy time for our business, so we went to a number of schools; but one of the more memorable schools was a red one-room schoolhouse that only tourists enter these days. Its most famous visitor ever was not a person but an animal -- specifically a lamb. And the lamb's owner was a little girl named Mary. No, we're not kidding -- that little poem, one of the most famous in the world, was inspired by a true incident, and not even names were changed to protect the silly. This schoolhouse, built in 1792, was once attended by young Mary Sawyer, who secretly brought her pet lamb to school and hid it under her desk. Just how you'd keep that a secret is beyond us, but it definitely depends a great deal on the silence of the lamb. And this one didn't cooperate for long -- when Mary went to the head of the class to recite something, the lamb stopped being sheepish and made so much noise that Mary was no longer able to pull the wool over the teacher's eyes. The rest of the class was delighted, including John Roulstone, who was visiting from another community. Later, he scribbled down the first few lines of the soon-to-be-famous verses and handed them to Mary. In 1877, the little snatch of doggerel (sheeperel?) would provide the first words ever recorded on a phonograph -- recited by none other than Thomas Edison himself. The schoolhouse, which is open for tours during the summer (we just missed the season, but we were able to to peer into the window at its period furnishings) originally stood in the nearby town of Sterling. No, it didn't crawl or slide to Sudbury; it was moved in 1923 by none other than Henry Ford to its present location, a very fitting neighbo[...]
Fri, 19 Oct 2007 23:37:00 +0000
This week we present the Japanese fable "The Grateful Sparrow" (otherwise known as "The Tongue-Cut Sparrow" in a harsher version), a cautionary tale about greed and gratitude.
We come to you from Pennsylvania, with our special guest star Libby, Zephyr's friend from the San Francisco Bay Area. A glutton for punishment, she's spending the entire month of October touring with us, to get a taste of the glamorous life.
We report on our visit to the Amish Farm and homestead in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a preserved two-story dwelling open for public tours. In the heart of a busy shopping and tourist district, the Amish attraction sits right smack next to a Target store. But step inside, and you quickly forget that you're in the Twenty-First Century. A knowledgeable guide explains the facts of the Amish lifestyle and answers your questions -- and there were some interesting questions from our inquisitive tour group. The 15-acre farm, which was opened for public tours in 1955, features a stone farmhouse built in 1803 and a one-room schoolhouse opened for tours last year.
But the reason we were in Lancaster to begin with was so Zephyr and Libby could "work" (i.e. volunteer) at Field of Screams, which many consider the premiere haunted attraction in the country. (If you build it, they will scream.) Every October, this place comes alive with the sounds of ghouls and goblins and patrons getting their wits scared out of them. The complex features two haunted houses, a haunted hayride, and a special "Little Screamers" section for the younger ones. And it is, we can attest, an extremely popular place.
Dennis (narrator), Kimberly (wife), Zephyr (husband) and Libby (sparrow)
Thu, 04 Oct 2007 04:01:00 +0000Traditionally, Native Americans have enjoyed telling myths about how various natural phenomena originated. And "naturally", the members of the Seneca Tribe (part of the Iroquois Confederation) were greatly impressed by Niagara Falls, as millions of visitors have been in more recent times. Niagara FallsThis week, we bring you our wacky version of the tale we call "Niagara", which is perhaps the best-known account of how this majestic landmark came to be. It's certainly more poetic than the scientific version of a huge glacier trucking through 10,000 years ago, and it also features an important theme about the hazards of greed and the importance of revering nature. Niagara apparently comes from a Seneca word, but nobody's certain which word or exactly what the name means -- our favorite version is "thundering water". Originally located about 7 miles north, near Lewiston, NY and Queensland, Ontario, Niagara Falls moved southward to its present location over the years due to erosion. (Yes, you read that right: these waterfalls are nomadic, just like us!) There are three waterfalls in all, although the smallest one, Bridal Veil, is the Cinderalla of the group, tucked behind an island where most people don't even see it. There's Horseshoe Falls, which is 173 feet high and 2600 feet wide, and American Falls, which is 70 feet tall and about 1100 feet wide. (American Falls was taller until 1954, when a massive rockslide deposited some enormous boulders at its base. Hmmm... it was sort of like the Native American story.) Fed by the 35-mile long Niagara River -- one of the few rivers on this continent to flow north -- Niagara Falls drops 100,000 cubic feet of water per second over the cliffs in peak season. We reminisce about our past visits to this splendid sight, including our first time during a very harsh winter, when the falls were surrounded by ice and snow. Maid of the MistAnd we talk about our excursion this time on a Maid of the Mist boat, one of the vessels that have been taking tourists out to the bottom of Horseshoe Falls since 1846. In 1960, one of these boats rescued a 7-year-old boy who was swept over the falls, the first person ever to[...]
Thu, 20 Sep 2007 04:01:00 +0000He roamed the country barefoot sleeping under the stars, in clothes he made from sacks, with a cooking pan on his head. Everywhere he went, he planted apple seeds, gave things away, took care of animals, and made friends. He was John Chapman (1774-1845), better known as Johnny Appleseed, a legend in his own time, and still a legend today. Despite living a life of philanthropy, simplicity and voluntary poverty, Chapman left behind an estate of apple nurseries worth millions -- and he would have been even richer if he hadn't been so careless in his bookkeeping. We recount some of the tales told about him, most of which were in fact true.
Thu, 06 Sep 2007 04:00:00 +0000
Lake Scargo in Dennis, MA (on Cape Cod) is the home of a colorful Native American legend about how the Lake came to be -- one of many such Native tales about the origins of natural phenomena and landmarks. Princess Scargo, daughter of chief Sagem of the Bobuset tribe, is presented with four little fish by a suitor, and the rest is the stuff of legend. Today, you can find descendants of these silvery fish (no, not silverfish) in Scargo Lake. And you can get a good look at the Lake, and the surrounding territoryterritorty, by climbing Scargo Tower in East Dennis. Not a terribly high structure, but it's located atop the highest point on the Cape, so the view is pretty impressive.
But we got a look at an even more impressive tower, which affords an even more impressive view: Pilgrim Monument, the 252-ft. monolith in Provincetown, right on the tip of the Cape. The tower commemorates the arrival of the Pilgrims in November 1620, when they hammered out the groundbreaking Mayflower Compact. The cornerstone was laid in 1907 by Pres. Theodore Roosevelt for this controversially designed structure modeled after the Torre del Mangia in Siena, Italy, and construction was completed in 1910.
We biked to Provincetown from Nickerson State Park, a distance of about 35 miles, and stayed at a campground just outside town in our teeny tiny tents. Then we used our bikes to explore this colorful little seaside resort with lots of historic buildings, the largest percentage of Portuguese population in the country, and also the largest percentage gay population. Although the year-round census is only 3500, it explodes to 50,000 during the summer.
There are three resident theatres in this town that was once the home of playwrights Tennessee Williams and Eugene O'Neil, as well as novelist Norman Mailer.
Dennis (Chief), Kimberly (princess) and Zephyr ("Hulk")
Thu, 30 Aug 2007 04:01:00 +0000
“The Little Red Hen? is an English fable based upon repetition, like many of the other stories we’ve done. In this case, the barnyard animals learn the importance of industriousness – that only those who share the labors also share the rewards.
We chose this story in part because Zephyr came back to us with streaks of red in his hair – from Not Back to School Camp in Oregon. He attended a weeklong session there at the end of last summer as well, and had a great time and met some great new friends that he’s been in touch with since then. Not Back to School Camp is an opportunity for homeschooled teenagers from across the country to get together and exchange experiences, talents, creative projects and annoying habits. There’s even a prom just like a regular school (Not. Well, there is really a prom, but we can't vouch for the rest.)
While he was away, mom and dad caught a ferry from Cape Cod to Martha’s Vineyard, an island about 20 miles offshore that’s long been a favorite vacation resort for politicians (including, of course, the Kennedys) and other celebrities. In the seventies, MV residents started a petition to have the island become our 51st state – but as of now, it’s still officially part of Massachusetts.
We spent two days biking around the island, and stayed at a campground with our tiny tent. (There was nothing tiny about the camping rates, nor anything else on the island.) In the town of Oak Bluffs, we saw the Flying Horses, the oldest continuously operating carousel in the U.S., having been built in 1876. And we thought WE’D been going around in circles for a long time!
Dennis (Narrator), Kimberly (Hen) and Zephyr (Goose, Duck, Lamb)
Thu, 23 Aug 2007 04:01:00 +0000
Like the familiar tales of “Rumpelstiltskin? and “Lohengrin?, the Nigerian animal yarn called “The Hippopotamus and the Tortoise? deals with a character (the hippo) whose name is a secret, and another character (the Tortoise) who successfully guesses it. The consequences of the successful guess vary from story to story, but in this case, it results in the hippo and his descendants finding a new habitat to inhabit.
We recorded this story with guest stars Joey (age 13) and Jenny (age 11), who are our nephew and niece respectively; and Ellie (age undetermined) who’s our “adopted daughter?.
We were in Sacramento for our second cross-country flight in less than a month, this time for the Homeschool Association of California Conference.
And what a great conference it was! We presented a well-attended performance in addition to workshops on writing, sign language, physical comedy, mask making and reflections on our 15-year odyssey across America. Our programs were met with enthusiastic response, and we also had a good time attending other presentations. There were a fire twirling demonstration, a rocketry demonstration (you know how cool kids think it is to see things blow up), a skygazing session with large telescopes set up in the courtyard, a swing dance class, a dance for the teens, and a jam session for aspiring musicians, among other activities. We very much hope to return next year!
Our apologies to Libby, Hannah, Melia, and Molly, who did some great work on the FIRST version of this podcast, which we recorded with them before they all left the conference. And then, due to technical difficulties…
Dennis (the Hip Hippo) and Kimberly (the Narrator) with Ellie (Tortoise), Joey (Monkey) and Jenny (Hippolyta)
Tue, 14 Aug 2007 21:21:00 +0000There's nothing wrong with trusting your friends, as long as you don't entrust them with responsibilities they can't handle. A certain king learns that lesson the hard way when he sticks his neck out a bit too far in "The Foolish Friend", a folktale from India.But rather than just tell what happens from beginning to end, we start after the big blunder and do some detective work to piece together what happened. Yes it's "CSI Bombay", our retelling of the story modeled after the hit TV series "CSI Las Vegas", which Zephyr is obsessed with these days. (CSI stands for "Crime Scene Investigation").We're coming to you from Nickerson State Park out on Cape Cod, where we're taking advantage of one of our favorite biking trails. The campground has rebuilt and regrouped after the disastrous fire that destroyed the historic headquarters building the last time we stayed here.We just left the historic city of Salem, where we had a return engagement at the library. But we've enjoyed many other visits to this colorful town as well, a town where history seems to seep out of every crack in the pavement and clapboards.The city is best known for something that actually happened a few miles up the road: the infamous witch trials of 1692 actually took place in Salem Village, or what is now Danvers. Nonetheless, it is the city of Salem that has become associated with the ugly episode in the public ,mind, and Salem has returned the favor by erecting a monument to the victims, and by establishing many tourist attractions commemorating the tragic events. We have the fondest memories of being in town two years ago for Halloween (a holiday for which this town pulls out all the stops); and thanks to Zephyr's passion for "haunted house" attractions, all three of us were hired by Witch Village to help handle the onslaught of revelers. Zephyr scared the wits out of people in a "haunted house". Kimberly helped hold down the fort at the information booth. And Dennis escorted candlelight ghost walks, exploring some of the reputedly REAL hau[...]
Thu, 09 Aug 2007 04:01:00 +0000Charlotte Brown was a young woman who married Capt. Nelson Cole Haley, skipper of the whaling ship Charles W. Morgan out of Mystic, CT. No doubt about that. But there is a rumor that before she married Capt. Haley, she was ditched at the altar by another man who then heaved ho aboard a whaling ship; and because of that, she disguised herself as a man and signed up as a whaler herself. Because the story is undocumented, that makes it a folktale, and therefore fair game for us to have some fun with. If the yarn is true, then Charlotte joins the ranks of several women who are known to have passed themselves off as sailors -- including some who were pirates. We heard about Charlotte Brown Haley when we visited Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, where the Charles W. Morgan is anchored. The 105 ft. whaling vessel, built in 1841 in New Bedford, MA., still looks pretty much the same as it did when it hunted down whales and chopped them up in the blubber room. (Yuck!) You can step aboard her (If they called ships her, why didn't they let "hers" work on them too?) and see where the first mate had his own tiny berth, the second and third mates had to share one, and the rest of the crew were sardined in the forecastle. And you also can see photographs of the ship's various captains -- including Haley and his wife Charlotte.Mystic Seaport has a number of exhibits related to ships and whaling, including a small craft display and an impressive collection of figureheads. And there are a number of activities especially suitable for younger kids, such as rope making. A troupe of three performers also presents the story of Charlotte Brown Haley at various times throughout the day.Our version of the story is performed with two guest stars who are friends of Zephyr's: Cassia (who also assisted us two weeks ago) and Daniel, the drummer in Zephyr's band who has a mean falsetto.Happy Listening!Dennis (Captain), Kimberly (Narrator), Zephyr (Jack), Cassia (Mom) and Daniel (Charlotte)[...]
Thu, 02 Aug 2007 04:01:00 +0000Three wishes. Three oranges. Three musketeers. Three brothers. Three bears. Three little pigs. And three goats, of course. The pivotal number in folktales and fairy tales is back again with a starring role in "The Three Billy Goats", otherwise known as the "Billy Goats Gruff", a tale that seems to have originated in Poland, Norway and/or Germany. This tale is reminiscent of how some jokes are structured, with the three steps leading up to a punchline. Indeed, there are jokes based on a similar progression in physical size; and this story, you might say, has its own punchline at the end as well.
Fri, 27 Jul 2007 01:13:00 +0000"Orpheus" is a Greek myth about a musician who was so good (or so "awesome" in contemporary musicians' lingo) that he truly inspired awe in all living creatures. Unfortunately, his talent didn't help build his patience any, and it proved to be his undoing when he had an opportunity to rescue his wife Eurydice from tragic death.We chose this tale mainly because of Cerberus, the three-headed dog. What does this have to do with anything? Well, the three headed dog appears in one of the Harry Potter books -- only he's given the name Fluffy. And this isn't the only bit of folklore and mythology that J.K. Rowling borrows. There's the phoenix, the fabulous bird that is reborn out of its own ashes; the hippogriff, which is similar to the griffin, which she also uses. And in the story of Orpheus, as in Harry Potter and many other stories, the serpent is used as a symbol of evil.So what does this have to do with anything? As if you didn't know, this past week marked the release of the seventh and final book in the series. And we, of course, were in line at midnight to buy our copy like millions of other folks.Were you surprised when you found out in an earlier book that Remus Lupin was a werewolf? Well, you wouldn't have been if you'd been as familiar with Latin as Rowling is. The name provides two very strong clues: "Lupin" is from the Latin word lupus meaning wolf (if something is wolf-like, it is said to be lupine) and Remus was the brother of Romulus, after whom Rome was named. According to legend, the two boys were raised by ... wolves! (This also inspired the story of Tarzan.) In this episode, we discuss these Latin clues, as well as some of the other mythology in Harry Potter.Our special guest this week is Zephyr's friend Cassia from Massachusetts; she spent a couple of days living with us and got a first-hand look at the glamorous life of a touring actor.Happy Listening!Dennis (Orpheus), Kimberly (narrator and Cerberus head), Zephyr ([...]
Thu, 19 Jul 2007 17:23:00 +0000"The Elves and the Shoes" from Holland is one of the simple but charming little accounts of the interaction between humans and elves, who were always playing pranks (the elves, that is -- although the humans may have done so as well). In this case, the prank involves the wooden shoes for which the Dutch are famous.The Dutch are also famous for chocolate, so what better time to do a Dutch story than when we're in the chocolate capital of the world -- Hershey, PA. Especially since it's in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country. True, the Pennsylvania Dutch are not really Dutch for the most part; they are descendants of settlers who came to the area primarily from Germany. (The German word for German is Deutsch, pronounced "doitch", which sounds like Dutch.)Hershey is named for Milton Hershey, the king of chocolate, who was born in the area in 1859, and after many years of hard work, developed his chocolate-making process, established his factory, and built up an entire community around it. The factory is still here, of course, pumping out the enticing aroma of coacoa all around. So is Hershey Park, which he also developed, although it has grown into an amusement park with some of the most thrilling rides around. (We're especially fond of the coaster called Great Bear.) And there's a visitors' center called Chocolate World, which offers a Disneyesque ride through a simulation of the factory, except with singing dairy cows. Mr. and Mrs. Hershey used their vast fortune to improve the lives of the less fortunate, and they were especially dedicated to assisting disadvantage children. To that end, they established Hershey School, which occupies 10,000 acres and currently has a student body of 1100. We performed at the school 15 years ago in the luxurious and cavernous Founders Hall, and we were astounded by the facilities and the type of care the students were provided.Happy Listening, Dennis (elf), Kimberly (el[...]
Thu, 12 Jul 2007 04:01:00 +0000What happens when animals and objects start talking? Unless you're watching a Disney musical, it might be rather confusing. In "The Talking Mule", a whimsical little story from South Carolina, we see how such an incident could put things into perspective; and even more perspective is provided by one animal who thinks it's ridiculous to believe reports about all the others being so eloquent. This doubtlessly is derived from an older African fable in which it is a talking stool that scoffs at the notion of a yakkity yam.
Thu, 05 Jul 2007 18:26:00 +0000John Henry is one of several larger-than-life American heroes associated with specific occupations, like Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan, Old Stormalong and Febold Feboldson. But the incident depicted in the many versions of the John Henry ballad actually may have occurred in some fashion. There's just no way to know when, where, how and wherefore. But it's nice to believe there's some to truth to this parable about people being stronger than the machines they create. One reason it's so difficult to trace the mists of myth is that John Henry is a common name, and it appears to have been especially common among African-Americans working on the railroads. According to one version of the tale our hero was a former slave, and in another version, he was a prisoner rented out as a laborer. The town of Leeds, Alabama claims to be the site of the famous episode, but so does Tackett, West Virginia, which even has erected a statue of the most famous hammer-wielder since Thor. There's also more than one Big Bend Tunnel; but there's only one C&O Railroad. There's also one C&O Canal. Or at least there was. Well, the canal's still there, but it's no longer canaling. Begun on July 4, 1824, the canal was planned to extend all the way from D.C. to Ohio (thus the name Chesapeake and Ohio Canal) but was halted at Cumberland, MD. During the period of operation, this shallow waterway ferried coal, grain and other freight on boats pulled by mules. Crews working on these boats sometimes brought their families along on these slow journeys, making them the 19th century equivalent of RV families. Today, the canal, is a national park, and it's paralleled by a bicycle path 184 miles long that we've been wanting to trek on out Treks for a long time. With a week off during our busy summer schedule (because of, appropriately, the Fourth of Ju[...]
Thu, 28 Jun 2007 04:01:00 +0000"The Three Wishes", a European tale that comes to us by way of The Brothers Grimm, is one of many stories dealing with the well-known motif of wishes coming true -- including "Aladdin", for instance. In this example, a rash and foolish waste of opportunities leads to regretful results in the end. (It reminds us of people who win the lottery but end up broke.) But in the process, we learn about a comical usage for a string of sausages.We discuss two places that demonstrate how wishes can come true, especially for smaller children: the Children's Museum of Indianapolis and COSI, the science museum in Columbus, Ohio. We drove through both of these cities this past week on our way to Pennsylvania, and we've spent a good many hours in both museums, particularly when Zephyr was younger.The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is a four-floor affair, and has been called the largest children's museum in the world. Every Halloween, the museum mounts an imaginative haunted house, built around a different theme every year. This is where Zephyr got bitten by the haunted house bug (or was it a vampire?) at age 9.COSI, on the site of the old Columbus High School (the front facade of which is still preserved) is one of the biggest and best science museums in the country. But we liked it even better back when it featured "Adventure into the Unknown", the archeology-inspired (think Indiana Jones) interactive exhibit that sent kids and kids at heart scampering to uncover clues, solve riddles, and find the ultimate treasure -- which turned out to be some very useful advice on the art of problem-solving. It was all done in a very detailed, moodily lighted, inspiring atmosphere. Oh, why are we telling you all this when you can't go attend it anymore? Well, maybe you could pressure the museum to bring it back.And this, by the way, is our 50th podcas[...]
Mon, 25 Jun 2007 22:46:00 +0000
This week we saw a sneak peek for a film that we just had to talk about.
"Sicko" by Michael Moore opens nationwide June 29th.
We hope you enjoy our review. Please check back on Thursday for the regular episodes of Activated Stories.
D, K and Z Goza
Thu, 21 Jun 2007 04:01:00 +0000He thought he was the cock of the walk, but this overly vain fowl cries foul when he truly turns vane--i.e. becomes a weathervane. It's "Half-A-Chick", the curious Portuguese fable about the consequences of arrogance. One of the curious things about this story is that the main character is an oddball. Okay, nothing unusual about that; plenty of stories have leading characters who are misfits. (Cinderella, The Ugly Duckling, Harry Potter, etc. etc.) But you'll notice that such characters almost always turn out to be noble and virtuous despite the way other people ridicule and mistreat them. In this case, just the opposite happens -- Half-A-Chick has a double-sized ego, and meets his downfall because of it.This week, we come to you from the heart of the bustling resort town of Hot Springs, Arkansas. (Technically, it's called Hot Springs National Park -- the entire city of 35,000 residents plus hordes of tourists is a national park!) We recorded next to the Visitors' Center, beside one of the many fountains where you can fill up jugs with 143 degree mineral water that's been brewing for 4000 years before spouting from the 47 springs around here. We were right there on "Bathhouse Row" which at one time sported several trendy bath houses and health spas that were frequented by such notable visitors as Al Capone. Today, these structures are preserved as historic buildings, but only one remains in operation as a bath house-- although other bath houses can be found at some of the hotels in town. We mourn the Libbey Memorial Physical Club, the truly unique establishment we luxuriated in on out last trip here. Nothing else like it in Hot Springs or anywhere. (Read about our previous visit to the Bath House)At our performance at the Garland County Library, we met another boy named Z[...]
Thu, 14 Jun 2007 04:01:00 +0000Row, row, row, your boat... well actually we were paddling canoes and kayaks, but we did go gently downstream for the most part--except for Zephyr, who had a kayak crackup. We were canoeing on the beautiful Buffalo River in northern Arkansas, with vessels and gear provided by Dillard's Ozark Outfitters, a family operation near the town of Yellville, where we opened our summer season.
Thu, 07 Jun 2007 04:01:00 +0000In the spirit of family businesses, which we have been celebrating lately (and one of which we've been operating for years) we present some family monkey business: "The Three Brothers", a nonsense tale from Italy. If you look really hard for the point of this story, then you're really missing the point of this story. Celebrity voices have been impersonated, though not necessarily imitated.The Dutton FamilyOne family business we encountered this week was the Dutton Family operation in Branson, MO. When you think Branson, you probably think country music, and if so you'd be partially correct, but certainly not entirely. There are plenty of hillbilly song and comedy revues in town, but there are also many other types of entertainment as well. This little city of about 6000 people also features a Ripley's museum (What tourist town doesn't?) and an extensive exhibit of Titanic artifacts housed in their own building-- a reduced scale, half-segment ship-shaped (and presumably ship-shape) building colliding with an ersatz iceberg. There's a troupe of Chinese acrobats appearing in town, and at the Dutton show we attended, there was a preview of a Samoan fire-dancing performance.Even the musical acts themselves are richly varied. There's a rock'n'roll revue, a Beatles tribute, and one of the countless knock-offs of "Riverdance". Many famous singers have opened their own theatres here, including Bobby Vinton (Oh, how Kimberly's late grandma adored Bobby, a fellow Pole) and Andy Williams -- yep, he's still kicking, and his Moon River Theatre, it appears, is still full and flowing.Which brings us back to the Duttons. We went to their show expecting essentially bluegrass or something along those lines, but we were very pleasantly s[...]
Thu, 31 May 2007 17:05:00 +0000"The Drummer Boy" is our story this week, and no, it's not a Christmas Story. It's a possibly true tale from The Civil War about a young man who receives a valuable lesson in tolerance and forgiveness. And by the way, the drummer on our soundtrack gets an assist from Daniel Wilcox, the drummer in the rock band to which Zephyr belongs.We recount not only our experiences with many significant Civil War sites over the years, but also our recent visit to Living History Farms in Urbandale, Iowa. This complex sprawling over many acres features both indoor and outdoor exhibits and demonstrations, including an Ioway Indian Farm from around 1700; an 1850 settlers' homestead; a farmhouse from 1900; a farming museum; and an entire recreated village from around 1875. The latter includes an elaborately detailed bank, newspaper office, milliner's shop, and other businesses. And since we were visiting the facility on Memorial Day, we also witnessed a procession down the center of town to the cemetery, where a ceremony was held honoring veterans in general and particularly those of the Civil War. And this was followed by a baseball game, played with rules and uniforms from a bygone era when there were no gloves, no multimillion dollar contracts, no unsportsmanlike behavior, and no bloated egos.Strolling about Living History Farms (well, you're transported part of the time by a dusty tractor-drawn trolley), you get to ask questions of guides in period costume, and see how our ancestors lived up close. You can see their tools, their livestock, their buildings, and when we were there we had plenty of opportunities to witness how lunch was cooked on an open fire by various pioneers from several different eras. [...]
Thu, 24 May 2007 04:01:00 +0000"The Snow Maiden" is a tale from Russia that symbolizes the determination to find hope and cheer in the long harsh winters. In some versions, there is an additional motif about the importance of trust and the dire consequences of not trusting - somewhat similar to the German legend of "Lohengrin", among others. It was such a version of this story that we included in one of our productions 16 years ago, when we were just touring the San Francisco Bay Area. Zephyr, of course, was a baby at the time, and we hired other performers to round out the cast. For this production, our additonal performer was 8-year-old Megan Cohen, the first homeschooled child we ever met.Well, for this podcast, we are fortunate enough to have another very talented youngster fill the role: Devon Wood, a 10-year-old Iowan whom we met last year when we did a residency at her school. She and her mother and aunt drove many miles to see us perform this week at a school in Altoona, Iowa. We wanted so much to use Devon's talents on our podcast that we recorded it ahead of schedule, before we'd even outlined a script. No problem: she can improvise with the best of us, and everything you hear her say just came off the top of her head. Bicycling CapitalWe also discuss our recent visit to Sparta, Wisconsin, which bills itself the Bicycling Capital of America. In addition to being the home of the world's largest bicycle, the town is the site of the intriguing Deke Slayton Memorial Space and Bike Museum. Space and bicycles in the same facility?? Hey, why not. Weren't Wilbur and Orville bicycle mechanics?Deke Slayton, one of the Mercury 7 astronauts, grew up in Sparta and attended Sparta High School. Alo[...]
Thu, 17 May 2007 04:01:00 +0000"The Golden Goose" is a story from the Grimm Brothers about the charms of innocence, and how the gift of laughter is sometimes the most valuable and rewarding asset of all. We present it with the aid of guest performers the Krucks Family from the second annual rally of Families on the Road (FOTR), held this year in the resort town of Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. Wisconsin DellsWisconsin Dells is officially the water park capital of the world, and we took advantage of one of the indoor water parks, as those outdoors are not yet open for the season. We also played a couple of rounds at some of the town's numerous miniature golf courses. We visited the Tommy Bartlett Exploratory, a hands-on science museum that features one of three editions of Mir, the Russian space station that stayed in orbit above the earth for 10 years. The one housed here is one of two still in existence, and you can actually go aboard it! Nearby is the arena for the Tommy Bartlett Show, a spectacular 90-minute stunt production that features boats and water skiing. No visit to Wisconsin Dells would be complete wihtout a tour of Wizard Quest, a unique indoor theme park/ scavenger hunt that challenges your wits and powers of observation. You have 90 minutes to free 4 virtual wizards (The wind wizard is called Zephyr--how cool is that) by solving riddles--the answers are cleverly concealed in the exhibits. Fun for all ages as you discover secret passages and compartments, slide down chutes and wrack your brains. Watch the FOTR Superhero Video.(best to turn your sound off)Come Play IN the Folktales! Take a ride on logging trucks working at Paul Bunyan's new l[...]
Thu, 10 May 2007 04:01:00 +0000"The Proof in the Painting" is a tale that originated somewhere in Europe--we haven't been able to trace its exact origin, so if you have any information on that point, please let us know. The title is our own creation, and it is of course a play on the old saying, "The proof of the pudding is in the eating", because the story illustrates how the best way of judging success may not be the most obvious.
We're coming to you from Fox Lake, Illinois, where Kimberly rejoins us after returning from two weeks in Reno. Dennis and Zephyr, meanwhile, have returned to the Chicago area from the Detroit area, where Dennis took a little trip to Windsor, Ontario, and Zephyr spent three packed days (and nights) at HauntCon 2007.
HauntCon is the annual convention and tradeshow for the haunted attraction industry, of which Zephyr is an enthusiastic accomplice. He's worked at a number of noted (or notorious) haunted houses, even dragging mom and dad into the act a couple of years ago in Salem, MA; he also designs his own haunts, of course.
This event featured an exhibition of the latest props and gizmos, movie screenings, seminars and a costume ball that featured vampires, ghouls and demons milling about in the hotel lobby among the (hopefully) amused business travelers. Zephyr also participated in a tour of the world's largest (and possibly other kinds of -est) haunted house, the four-story Erebus in Pontiac.
Dennis (the rich man), Kimberly (Agnatha) and Zephyr (Theocles)
Thu, 03 May 2007 04:01:00 +0000"The Baker and the Judge" is a story that has been told many times, perhaps most notably by the great French writer Francois Rabelais in his epic masterpiece of satire "Gargantua and Pantagruel". But it may have originated in Israel, and in one version of the tale, the judge in question is the legendary King Solomon, who also is reported to have offered an unusual solution to the problem of two mothers quarreling over the same child.We bring it to you from Chicago, where we've been holed up for the entire month of April--well, except for Kimberly, who's spent the past week visiting her parents and grandmother in Nevada. This is the first podcast that Dennis and Zephyr have done on their own.Why did we choose this particular story? Well, if we must have a reason, let's say we did it because Rabelais gave us the word "gargantuan", and that describes the Sears Tower in Chicago, which we visited this past week. It's the tallest building in North America, and for 25 years it was the tallest in the entire world. The 110-story titan stands 1450 feet tall, with the antennae on top adding another 275 feet for a total of 1725. The structure is actually a cluster of nine towers of various heights, with only two going the distance (The base is laid out like a tic-tac-toe board!) One of the designers allegedly illustrated the concept to a colleague by pulling cigarettes out of a pack at different lengths. And you thought those things were utterly worthless!We also saw another famous tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Well, not exactly. We saw its twin, the Leaning Tower of Niles. Well, okay, so it'[...]
Thu, 26 Apr 2007 04:01:00 +0000"Acqua alle funi!". It's Italian for "water to the ropes", and it's taken from a story about taking a courageous stand and speaking up when everyone else is afraid. It's a tale rather similar to The Emperor's New Clothes, but this one is true.It happened in the Sixteenth Century in Rome, when Pope Sixtus the Fifth decided to have an enormous obelisk moved to a new location in St. Peter's Square, under the direction of architect Domenico Fontana. A worker named Bresca di Bordighera exhibited a great deal of courage and perhaps saved many lives. His descendants are still honored today.We learned of this story while visiting Fermilab in Batavia, Ill., just outside Chicago. Founded in 1967, Fermilab (named after Nobel Prize winning Italian physicist Enrico Fermi) is a huge research complex dedicated to studying the composition of matter with the aid of "particle accelerators", which smash subatomic particles so scientists can get a look at their innards.Fermilab occupies 10 square miles formerly occupied by farms, and by the defunct village of Weston. Some of the barns and other buildings have been preserved to use for storage and social events.Also in Chicagoland, we visited Ahlgrim Acres, a funeral home in Palatine. Wait a minute? Why on earth would we go to a funeral home? Why, to play miniature golf, of course. No joking; for the past 42 years, the basement of this establishment has featured a 9-hole miniature golf course, as well as shuffleboard, ping pong, pinball and other amusements. All open to the public, free of charge! And it's a very challenging an[...]
Thu, 19 Apr 2007 04:01:00 +0000We bring you the story of Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess, about whom many legends have been handed down. Pele is identified with Mauna Loa, the biggest volcano in the world and one of the most active.According to tradition, Pele is accompanied by a white dog, which she sends out to warn people that Mauna Loa is about to erupt. Supposedly, rangers spotted such a dog before the eruption of 1959, but were unable to locate it afterward. (No word on anyone seeing the canine before the volcano's most recent eruption in 1984.)It's been said that anyone removing volcanic rock from Mauna Loa (a violation of law) will be cursed with bad luck. This is one reason we thought the tale of Pele would be suitable for Earth Day, an event designed to remind us that we all must respect nature or bring misfortune upon ourselves.The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, and was the result of years of effort, spearheaded by Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, who first proposed the idea in 1962, getting a favorable response from President Kennedy. While the first year's event was observed by 20 million people, it is now observed each year by about 500 million worldwide. The date, April 22, may have been chosen in part because it is the birthday of Julius Sterling Morton, founder of Arbor Day.The legend about lava theft from Mauna Loa, rather than being an ancient tradition, is actually of modern origin: it appears to have been invented by a park ranger. Which is appropriate, since we're also commemorating National Park Week (April 16-22). Accordingl[...]
Thu, 12 Apr 2007 04:01:00 +0000
This week's story is "Beauty and the Beast", an immensely popular folk tale that first appeared in print in France bout 250 years ago. Like most popular folk tales, the story has many versions in many different cultures. It has inspired a number of novels, plays, films, a TV series and a Nintendo game (Donkey Kong). The most successful film adaptations were the 1946 French movie directed by Jean Cocteau, and the 1991 Disney musical edition. "King Kong" was also based on this legend.
The Disney animated feature, of course, has been transformed into a successful stage musical, and we recently attended an outstanding production of it at the Little Theatre of Winston-Salem, featuring some of Zephyr's friends in the cast.
Drop Everything and Read! On April 12th stop what you are doing and read for 5 minutes to celebrate Drop Everything and Read day.
Zephyr, by the way, has finally left North Carolina and caught up with us in Chicago, just in time to complete Act!vated Storypark, a new fun activity feature which will be on our website (soon!) based on some of our folk tales, and created with Roller Coaster Tycoon.Happy Listening,
Dennis (father), Kimberly (Beauty) and Zephyr (the Beast)
Thu, 05 Apr 2007 16:03:00 +0000"The Ghost and the Rock" is our retelling of storyteller Jim Flanagan's retelling of a ghost story about Gettysburg. We met Jim at a PTO Convention in Valley Forge, and he allowed us to use this tale, called "The Shadow in the Back Yard", from his book "The School of Scary Stories". This little yarn, which takes place in the present,but involves a classic ghost story motif, makes an important point about respecting and preserving history. Bicycling through History And history was very much a part of our experience this week in Pennsylvania, as we (Dennis and Kimberly) took in about 80 miles of territory on our bikes while Zephyr was practicing and performing with his band in North Carolina. First, there was Valley Forge itself: we toured on bikes through the park where General George Washington's troops spent a miserable winter in 1777-78 defending the area from British invasion. Although Washington himself, and his wife Martha, were considerably more comfortable in the house that served as the army's headquarters, and which today is open to the public. Then we pedaled from the town of Plymouth into downtown Philadelphia and had our lunch by Independence Hall, where delegates spent a sweltering summer in 1776 hammering out the beginnings of the new nation. The Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution were all signed in this picturesque building that recently guest-starred in the movie "National Treasure". We also dropped i[...]
Thu, 22 Mar 2007 04:01:00 +0000"What Other People Think", a story from the Grimm Brothers, warns about the dangers of paying too much attention to naysayers. It's a yarn that can be found in many variants in many cultures, usully with hilarious results.
We perform this tale with the aid of some special guest stars: Wylie, Nash and Trina, all teenage friends of Zephyr's in North Carolina, as we spend a couple of weeks in and around Winston-Salem and Greensboro.
Winston-Salem is the combination of the cities of Winston and Salem, which joined forces in 1913. Salem was settled in 1766 by members of the Moravian sect, who are still active in the community. This part of the double municipality includes Old Salem, a living history center that features many historic buildings that have been preserved/ restored/ whatever they do to them.
And (shhh!) it may be a well-kept secret, but if you're an avid cyclist and you do some poking around, you'll find an excellent scenic bike trail around Salem Lake, as we did.
Dennis (the Dad), Kimbery (the Donkey) and Zephyr (the Son) Goza
Thu, 15 Mar 2007 04:01:00 +0000"Tie a yellow ribbon around the old oak tree"... It's been the title of a hit song, and a popular saying associated with several folk-type stories about returning convicts, soldiers and others. It probably inspired the current custom of posting stickers of yellow ribbons to show support for troops. But chances are it all started with an Irish tale about a leprechaun. And it may originally have been a red garter rather than a yellow ribbon. (Come to think of it, did you know that leprechauns themselves originally were dressed in red rather than green?) This week we present "Clever Tom and the Leprechaun", a classic yarn about a fellow who thinks he's about to snag the treasure of one of the Wee Folk, but is not quite as clever as he thinks. We come to you from Montgomery, Alabama, a city rich in history. Currently the state capital, it was also the site of the first Confederate White House. It was the home of country music legend Hank Williams, and legendary novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald. (While stationed here in the army in 1919, Fitzgerald met his future wife Zelda--an encounter that inspired his short story "The last of the Belles"). But it was the city's role in the civil rights movement that really secured its place in modern history. In 1955, a 42-year-old seamstress named Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man, as African-Americans were expected to do at that time (a refusal motivated in pa[...]
Thu, 08 Mar 2007 05:01:00 +0000Do they give tornadoes names as they do tropical storms? We'd like to propose the name Tappin for the tornado that we recently dodged in Alabama. Tappin the Land Turtle "Tappin the Land Turtle" is an African-American fable about a turtle whose family was hungry because times were so hard. But he noticed that the uppity eagle had plenty of food for his babies. So he asked the eagle about this, and enlisted the eagle's help in finding more food. But when he incurred the eagle's displeasure, he ended up on a magical adventure that brought him even more abundance than he'd anticipated. It's a tale that goes back to the days of slavery and incorporates several reminders of that era: the hunger, the separation of "higher" and "lower" classes (the turtle and the eagle) and the dream of a life of plenty, symbolized bt the cornucopia-like dipper. In some versions of the story, Tappin returns to the Sea King and receives an enchanted cowhide, which, as it turns out, whips everyone (like the overseer on a plantation) and causes the markings on Tappin's shell, like those on every turtle thereafter. Hiding from Tornadoes in Alabama We thought about this story because we were rather like a turtle ourselves when the tornado whipped through. We'd just performed a couple of shows in Ozark, AL., and heard that severe storms were on the way. Keeping abreast of the developments by listening to t[...]
Thu, 01 Mar 2007 05:01:00 +0000Celebrating Read Across America WeekWe're in Georgia, but we're talking about Springfield, Massachusetts, home town of Dr. Seuss--some of the things and people he saw there growing up figured in his books, thinly disguised. Mar. 2 is his birthday, so we wanted to pay tribute to him by performing one of his stories. Unfortunately, we can't afford the royalties; so we opted instead to do a Seuss-like story: Robert Browning's verse retelling of "The Pied Piper of Hamelin". Like a Seuss book, the tale features colorful characters, animals, a fanciful plot, a valuable lesson, and most important of all, catchy and light-hearted rhymes. Pied Piper of Hamelin The Pied Piper legend is much older than Browning, dating back to 13th Century Germany. The earliest known reference to it is a depiction on a church's stained glass window around 1300. It includes a likeness of the notorious musician and a group of children, and apparently refers to a real tragedy that either caused a number of children to lose their lives or leave the city. (It may have been a flood, an avalanche, or a plague. Or the piper may have been a real person who actually lured them away. Nobody knows.) The story has been popular for ages, and has been the subject of at least eleven films, beginning in 1903. Robert Browning (1812-1889) was, like his wife Elizabeth Barrett Browning, one of the great poets of [...]