Fall, 2009

What’s in Our Backyards?

When I was a child of elementary school age, my free time was spent in my backyard. Mr. Stoviak down the street sold large appliances (TVs, refrigerators and the like), and he would let us take the thrown out oversized boxes and make them into whatever our imagination was capable of…spaceships, barns, even schoolhouses. My mother hung clothes across the yard and even to this day, I am fascinated by the imagery created by a dress lofting in a breeze. When she ran out of room, she would hang the rest of her wash on our back porch between two wooden poles. And that gave me another idea. One day, I gathered the kids in the neighborhood and in my first directorship, we put on the play of “Cinderella”on my backyard porch, substituting those now dry clothes for some flower-printed sheets for our rising curtain. This was my first experience in marketing as well, as we put up our handmade posters on telephone poles in a 3 block radius. The show was a sell-out, as all the parents paid our 5 cent fee to support and reward our foray into the arts.

Lately I have been reading Twyla Tharp’s book , The Creative Habit. In it, she asks the reader to ponder their first creative moments and how those moments were received. These experiences in my backyard were mine. And I will always be thankful to Mr. Stoviak and neighbors like Mrs. Pence and Mrs. Uber who were my strongest supporters….and of course my mother, who willingly offered her domestic territory for a moment of child’s play.

I have been thinking a lot about backyards lately, as technology, booked up schedules and commitments steal our time to dream and create. Additionally, school budgets are such that opportunities to witness “live” creativity is being stolen from children. In addition to performances and artist-in-residencies that I bring to the schools, I wanted to do more. So I went out in to the Ventura community to see where performance art was happening and where it was lacking for both children and adults. As a result of these efforts, I am proud to tell you about the following new ventures:

Cinematic Storytelling workshop offered at Ventura Adult Ed. Whether you be a teacher, librarian or parent and are involved in reading or telling stories, this 8-week program will help you to bring your stories to life with an overview in theater basics for storytelling. Starting September 29th from 7:30-9 p.m. at the Ventura Adult Education building on Valentine Road. Go to www.vace.com to register.

Ventura’s first Tellabration (see www.Tellabration.org)! Celebrated around the world every November, guilds and storytelling enthusiasts share their storytelling talents in concerts held in cities and towns to celebrate the art of storytelling. Locally, TELLABRATION! brings together each area’s most celebrated storytellers, to delight, captivate, and mesmerize audiences with their tales. Our first year lineup includes the following local storytellers who collectively have performed at the Ojai Storytelling Festival, the National Storytelling Conference and the LA Storytelling Festival: Alina Cinal, Jeremy Fay, Don Houle, Dorothea Phelan and me! Please join us on Saturday, November 21st at 8 p.m. $10 at the door. Bell Arts Factory, 432 Ventura Avenue, Ventura, CA. Proceeds will go to fund an April Southern California Storytelling Swap being held in Ventura this year. More news on that in a future newsletter.

Children’s Storytelling Theatre. I am actively seeking space to bring storytelling talent to children in a Saturday morning program. Keep your fingers crossed as I continue my search!

Ventura Village Voices. Also starting in January, this quarterly Sunday night adult venue will bring in some of the area’s most talented storytellers. Highlighting one or two tellers each quarter, performances will also be held at the Ventura Improv Theater Space at 34 N. Palm Street in Ventura (near Main Street). Performances will be the 2nd Sunday of each month from 4-6 p.m. and will be held in January, April, July and October. Cost will be $10 at the door.

And continuing…
Ventura County Storytelling Guild
Meets the first Thursday of the month at Bell Arts Factory, 432 Ventura Avenue, Ventura, CA from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Storytellers of all levels welcome. Bring a 10-12 minute story to share and a good set of ears. For ages 18 and up.

And as always, I would love to bring a backyard performance to your school. Please visit my website at www.embodiedvoicestoryarts.com for program information or call or write at elaine@embodiedvoicestoryarts.com / 805-407-2538.

I hope that these backyard offerings will improve our own and our children’s exposure to the performing arts at an affordable price. Here’s to playing in our backyards once again!

Elaine Muray