Storytelling Arts' mission is to preserve, promote and impart the art of storytelling to develop literacy, strengthen communities and nurture the human spirit.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Not just looking, but SEEING

          There is a story that I have long loved to tell.  It concerns a man, in one version he is a prophet, in another he is a magician, who wanders upon a wedding feast. "All are welcome!" cries the father of the bride from the steps of his home.  "Come one, come all!!"  After seeing this, the man goes to his home, and puts on the clothes of a beggar, rubbing dirt and mud on his skin and hair.  Hobbling back to the wedding, he still finds the father of the bride proclaiming that "All are welcome!"  But, when the man in his disguise approaches the wedding hall, he is turned away. 

          The man changes his clothes yet again, but this time he dons the robes of royalty, and this time the father of the bride not only welcomes him in, but bows to him, and allows him to sit at the family table.  During the meal, the man, instead of enjoying the food, puts the food on his clothing - even pouring the wedding wine down the front of his shirt.  All the guests are puzzled by the man's actions, and finally, besides himself with curiosity, the father of the bride asks what the man is doing.  The man looks at the father of the bride and says, "Earlier today, I came dressed as a beggar, and though you said all are welcome, you did not let me in.  Yet, when I came in these rich robes, you treated me as an honored guest.  And so, since I am the same person, and it is only my clothing that has changed, I assumed that what you welcomed in here today was not me, but my garments, and I was simply feeding what you invited into your feast!"

          This notion of being judged by one's appearance is something I think that every human being can relate to, and when I began, through Storytelling Arts, to tell stories in Youth Detention Centers, I found that this story hit home even more deeply.  While I have not yet read the book "Blink", I know it's premise - that we all have "hard wiring" that leads us to make instant decisions about who we think someone is, or is not.  Our past experiences can deeply color what it is we see before us.  And, I have found, while some of that is a good thing, that first glance is not always the whole story, any more than the first line of a folktale is the entire plot.

         In the Detention Centers, it is so easy to be swayed by the physical environment - metal detectors, guards, doors that lock, buzzers, cameras - things that we see in movies and television that project "Danger!!!"  Then there are the young people we are going to see - dressed in identical jumpsuits, walking with their hands behind their backs in a straight line - their faces sometimes stone-like, and hard to read.  If one were to stop at that first assessment, one would RUN - no way storytelling would work here - that's crazy!  But it is then that a teller - that I have learned to take a breath, and really SEE, not just look, but SEE, with more than my eyes, with my guts, with my, for lack of a better word, and not to sound too ooey and gooey, with my soul.  And when I do that, I see people. Children really, who, like children do, like we all do, have made a mistake.  People who deserve to be seen for all of what they are, not just their external circumstances or appearances, just as the man in that ancient folktale.

          While I am grateful when people express an admiration for the work  in the Detention Centers that I (along with three other amazing storytellers) am HUMBLED AND HONORED to do for Storytelling Arts, I can truly say that the person receiving more out of these sessions is ME.  Each and every time I go, my perceptions are challenged, and I am forced to look deeply within myself, and exam the lens I am seeing the world through, and that is a very, very, VERY good thing.

Julie is a self proclaimed “creativity junky” whose first art form was dance. After graduating from New York City’s High School of Performing Arts, she danced and sang in numerous musicals across the country and Off Broadway. She has acted in everything from Shakespeare to the work of young playwrights in NYC high schools. Along the way she learned stilt walking, clowning, American Sign Language, and how to tell stories.

Her storytelling work encompasses all her skills as a performing artist, as she brings every aspect of a story to life. Her stories have been heard in such venues as the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the New Jersey Storytelling Festival, and in schools, libraries, bookstores, hospitals, radio and private events across the tri-state area. As an artist for Hospital Audiences Incorporated, Julie performs in halfway houses, drug rehabilitation centers and senior citizen homes.

She is also the voice for several children's and young adult audio books for the Andrew Heiskill Library for the Blind and Handicapped in NYC. When not telling tales she can be found performing as a dancer in shows across the country and as a clown doctor for the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit, entertaining children in NYC hospitals.