Geoff's Notes

Sun, 20 Mar 2005

Well, here I am in Salem, MA on leg three of the ECHO Storytelling tour. We gathered here on Monday evening, rehearsed on Tuesday and then did programs for schools at the Peabody Essex Museum on Wednesday and Thursday. Here, as in Anchorage and Honolulu, we had the students come to us rather than, as in other years, us going to the schools. There is a trade off here of considerable convenience for us and the organizers of having us in one place, not needing to carry around our props and coordinate transportation, but knowing that we're seeing fewer students because of the myriad difficulties facing schools in sgetting their population out to special events. In any case, the students that did come to us reflected the diversity if immigrants to this area from Asia, Eastern Europe and the Caribbean, and they seemed to get the message of cross cultural communication that is the foundation of our performance piece. Some of the most potent moments came in our post-performance question and answer sessions when we had the chance to expand upon what we have learned by being part of this project. In the case of one particularly diverse high school group, our discussion of "stories," the ones we present on stage and the ones that are the fabric of everyone's life, resulted in the students resolving to go back and collect their own. That, for us, was a thrilling moment, emblematic of what this project can and should do.

On Friday the rest of the gang went off to Marblehead while I stayed here and (thanks to wifi in the room) tried to catch up on a number of projects. Although I got a lot done, I regret not spending the day with this group of incredible people; we have become family and memorable moments come out of every day spent together, particularly when sharing some cultural exposure that is new to someone in the group.

Yesterday we did our public performances, solo and ensemble, as part of the 5th Annual New Trade Winds Storytelling Festival at PEM. This is my third year as I've said before, and I can say that the crowd was far larger than I've seen before and they participated enthusiastically throughout the day to the very last hula workshop. Great fun all around. I actually got to the museum early to go through the Yin Yu Tang Chinese House (200 years old from southeastern China) and a new exhibit called "Island Thresholds: Contemporary Art from the Caribbean." Both are well worth exploring, along with all the other rich resources of the Peabody Essex Museum. I would urge anyone to find time for a day here.

But now it's on to New Bedford and then Martha's Vineyard. More later.

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