Adventures in Storytelling

The adventures of The Patchwork Players, Patti Christensen and James Nelson-Lucas, as they travel the dimensions of time and space, telling their tales

Friday, October 21, 2005

Talking and Shopping

Today we attended an informative workshop with Professional Speaker (and storyteller) Arvee Robinson ( We spent the morning working on our personal introduction. You know, when someone says "what do you do?" and we say "storytellers", folks don't really know what that means. The picture that conjures is a librarian, sitting in a chair, reading to a group of four-year-olds. That does not really speak to all that we do. So today we got some great ideas on how to tell people who we are and what we do in a 10 second greeting. Thanks Arvee, you gave us a lot to think about.

Then we went shopping. Trolling the thrift shops, one of our favorite pastimes. Places like Goodwill and AmVets have some of the best costume stuff anywhere. We found some wonderful peices, some we will weare tomorrow at LEGOLAND, some outfits will be seen at future shows.

Wow! What an Exciting Blog! Hey, some days are more adventurous than others. Fear not, this weekend we tell at LEGOLAND. There will be more stories to come.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Once Upon A Story

The 15th annual storytelling festival in San Juan Capistrano happened this last weekend. Just like the Swallows, it felt like old home week for us. This storytelling festival,held within a stone's throw of the historic Mission San Juan Capistrano, was the very first storytelling event that Patti attended after moving to California in Labor Day 1997. She has attended every year since, with James and his wife Sia joining Patti and her husband Dick now the past 6 years. What is so nice about this festival?

First: top level storytellers from around the country are brought in to tell in this intimate setting. The quality of storytelling is always very high. They also showcase some regional tellers. This year San Diego teller, Sarah Saulter, and Orange County's Dave Chittenden were on the bill. We were proud to see them shine, sharing the stage with tellers who travel the country sharing their tales.

Patti and James are proud to help staff the resource booth sharing information about the South Coast Storyteller's guild (, of which we are both members. Many people stopped by to get information about where to hear more stories, or tools to work on their own storytelling skills. Opportunities abound, wherever you are. If you are in Orange County or San Diego County, one of the places to go is the South Coast guild. One of the only storytelling guild's in the country with its own Guild house, the South Coast folks are talented, welcoming and provide so much goo to the community and to storytellers. It is great to have the Guild working in support of the Festival.

Workshops, storytelling concerts, and good ol' fashioned gabbing with folks rounded out this festival. After a great workshop with Antonio Rocha, we are now percolating on how to expand the mime that we use in our storytelling, After listening to Baba Jamal Koran, we are thinking about how to keep the audience engaged, and how to get more still and quiet ourselves so that we might be clearer vessels for the stories to come through. Tellers Jim Cogan and Laura Pershin Raynor were very entertaining, and were great examples of what top-notch storytelling is all about.

We are so grateful for the people who spend so much time working to plan and promote storytelling events. Come join us next year in beautiful San Juan Capistrano for this great storytelling festival ( ). You'll be glad to did.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Getty Rocks

The Patchwork Players returned to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles today to reprise “A Hero's Journey”, a story we wrote and performed for the Getty nearly 2 years ago. The Getty is one of the worlds finest museums, and it was a treat to be asked back. A few years ago the Getty undertook an ambitious project; to hire professional storytellers to create an original story, based on a work in their collection. Then, to have the tellers tell their tale in the gallery with the piece there. They began their process by hiring teller Debra Olsen-Toller who did two stories based on paintings for them. They next got us to come and create our story, which we based on a beautiful French chandelier in the dec-art gallery. Then they brought in Angela Lloyd, who told a story about the painting 'Chance and Fortune'. The Getty then chose energetic teller Michael McCarty who told a powerful story about a bust of an African Man in the statuary gallery. We are so proud to be in that talented company, and to be asked back to tell our tale again and meet up with friends old and new.
We told our story four times today, and we had some wonderful audiences. As part of our show, we explain that we searched the galleries, closely observing many pieces, to find stories. After one of our shows, a couple of young girls came up to Patti to say that they believed one of the pieces in the gallery, 'Self Portrait, Yawning', may be one of the characters in our story! They had a couple of more theories about different stories for that painting. Well, part of our mission in telling stories at museums is to get folks to engage with the art. For these two girls at least, we have done that job.
Some of the highlights of our day: As we wandered through the plaza, we heard a little girl exclaim “Look, it's the storytellers”. Patti thought that maybe she had seen us last time we told at the Getty. But James was not so sure. She did not look old enough to remember us from almost two years ago. Later she and her mother came to hear our performance. Afterwards, this sweet little thing came up and asked us if we ever told stories at the San Diego Museum of Art. We had! Recently we told at their Pirates and Princesses Festival in their Maxfield Parrish Gallery. “See mom, I told you it was them”.
That show was a hundred and fifty miles away. And, we were in Renaissance costumes at that event. Wow, the feeling of celebrity! And what a lucky kid, to have folks who take her to storytelling events at some of the worlds best museums. Good job parents!
After another telling, we were approached by Amber, who had come with her husband to hear our tale. “Where can I by the book that tells that story?” she asked. Sadly, there is no book...yet! But what a great idea. We also learned that she is an illustrator, recently moves to California from the South West. We told her we are looking for an illustrator for our forthcoming 'Baby Coyote' book. Maybe something will develop there.
Then there was another adult listener, Marge. She is working on her teaching credential. As part of that process, she will be writing a paper on what she learned from our performance and how it will impact her teaching. Good luck Marge.
The Getty Center staff is wonderful. We were glad to see our buddy Hank at the Coat check area. He is the one who gave our Griffin puppet his first name, Merv as in, Merv Griffin;-) The security officers are terrific. Today we had Marcus. It is no small job to keep everyone from touching all of the fine furniture in the gallery where we are telling. And to keep the kids from sticking the “Getty” stickers on places that should not be stuck.
There is so much more to tell about friends, food (by the way, the Getty cafeteria is top notch!) and fine art. But we will be back at the Getty again in November, December and January, so we will save some for later.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

October first. A Day of Treasures!

October first. A Day of Treasures!

We started our day at The First Congregational of Long Beach, CA. What a beautiful place. We were told that this is the oldest church in Long Beach, originally built in 1912! Hey, in Southern California that counts as old. The Patchwork Players had been invited to help kick off a four weekend event designed to get young folks interested in the treasures of their lives and in their family histories. So we came to represent our cultural heritage. Patti wore a Viking Era costume and James wore one of his Kilts, to represent our Scandinavian and Celtic lineage. We told some of our favorite folktales from those treaditions, as well as shared some personal stories about our family histories. After our tales were told out, the audience was invited to create their own treasure chests out of shoe boxes, construction paper, magic markers and more. We watched as everyone created their own special story and memory box. Over the next three weekends, Kara, the event coordinator, has invited storytellers who will bring stories from the Pacific Islands, Latin America, and the African-American experience. Kara shared with the group her personal treasure box which she started when she was 14. It was indeed filled with treasures, the most interesting a little mimeographed book that he mother was part of creating when her family lived in Alaska. This was entitled “The Eskimo Cookbook”, a recipe book that native kids used to collect family recipes. Our favorite was Blubber Ice Cream. We hope to get a copy. Amazing and fun! Thanks Kara, for putting together a wonderful event. We look forward to coming back some day.

We ended the day in San Diego's Normal Heights neighborhood, at a very special Fandango! There is Patti playing the Jarana, jamming with friends old and new. This was a special fund raising event in support of a wonderful program in Veracruz, Mexico. Patti had the privilege three years ago to travel on a group Fulbright grant for a month with twenty artists and teachers in Veracruz (a state way south on the Gulf Coast of Mexico.). There were studied Mexican art, music, dance, and storytelling. One of the most amazing results of this trip was that we learned how to play and dance the music of the local region. Throughout the area, people would regularly gather for fandangos-community gatherings where people come together and play and dance, often all night. Being part of this was a life changing experience. A number of our group have now traveled back to Veracruz on several occasions, with a couple of folks assisting in creating a dvd of local musicians playing and singing, as well as publishing a book of the stories of the region. And back home in southern CA, we now gather at least once a month to play and share this music. Community in the making. It is truly a joy to gather with friends and play dance and sing (even if you aren't the best at any of doesn't matter, because it is about joy and community.) Let us know if you are in the area and would like to be invited to come to a fandango. You are most welcome!