October 30, 2008

Backstage at the Mesa Storytelling Festival

Just wanted to call your attention to Sean Buvala's report on the Mesa Storytelling Festival from behind the scenes: link

Especially noticed this:
Being out of the tents and into this modern, well-run facility has brought things to the next level.

(The predominance of tents in the American Storytelling Revival is, in my view, a failure of imagination based on the notion of copying wholesale the model of production from the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. (Jim May nearly admitted as much re: the Illinois Storytelling Festival) While Sobol's research rightly points out the accidental serendipity of the Jonesborough tents echoing the liminal space of past cultural events (the circus, chatauqua, and the Methodist revival meeting), tents are a solution to an architectural need: to create a temporary space in the out-of-doors where people can gather for a performance.

I think, after 30 years, we can say "So that tent thing, trying to re-create the past-- How's that working out for ya, audience-wise?"

[Standard I-wasn't-there-I-was-a-thousand-miles-away disclaimer]:
For the Mesa Storytelling Festival, it was a no-brainer- they went with what they have: an Arts Center that was already designed to be a cultural magnet, an economic engine, a local landmark, a regional "destination," and a recognizable hub for the arts. If you have a 212,000 square foot facility to host arts events, there's no need to set up tents in a field.

The liminal space that storytelling creates can be created anywhere... tents are just one option.

Anyway-- back to Sean's report on Mesa:

It's always refreshing to hear opinions from a pro about the production end of things-- if only because it is so rare (Storytelling is a small community, and not one that likes to air its laundry in public; it prefers to spread the word across kitchen tables and conference calls). Sean is one of the few members of the community that not only has a public platform (or seven) for discussion, but isn't afraid to share his candid opinion.

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