Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Connecticut Charter Oak

The Connecticut Charter Oak, what a story!

Spring rain on the leaves of a young descendant of the CT. Charter Oak

It is Memorial Day weekend and I am reminded  that we are celebrating freedoms earned my many Connecticut citizens. I am in awe of the strength, ingenuity, wit and talents of the Connecticut people. Through our colorful and remarkable history we have become a state of resources but we were first a state of determination to live free.

One of our state stories is of legendary proportion. The story of the Charter Oak. Connecticut was established and granted a charter to govern by. It was a document quite liberal in its day and provided the people with the framework for the new society here  far from mother England. As the young colony stretched her wings and grew the powers sought to rein in the unruly colonists and recalled the  charter. A meeting was held in Hartford and the leading officials of the colony gathered around the document that represented their freedoms. It lay on a candlelit table for scrutiny by all. In the midst of the meeting where some  respected England's wishes  and wanted to return the charter and others felt strongly to never relinquish rights given. During the heated meeting the candles were suddenly extinguished by a breeze or opened window. The darkness was complete there was a shuffling and tumble of chaos in the room and when light was eventually reignited the Charter was gone. Patriots  had swept it off the table in a daring plan to preserve their rights to govern. The document was gone!  Now a part of Connecticut history the charter was hidden in the hollow of a great oak tree. Deep inside the oak tree, a known representative of strength was the paper that insured Connecticut freedoms and rights.  It was the first move by the young colonies to break away from England and precipitated much thought and argument about loyalty to the crown.

Connecticut's Charter Oak was honored as the protective tree that ensured our liberties. Many many years later as a violent storm swept through Connecticut the tree met its fate and crashed to the earth. So revered for her strength and role in our independence that some of the wood was used to make the chair that the state senate leader sits on.

   Over the years many people had collected acorns from under the Charter Oak and planted them about the state a symbol of the historical moment. Many of these trees are noted with a historical marker and still today people collect a few acorns and undertake the growing of the next generation of  Charter Oak.

 The photo of wet spring rain  on  Charter oak leaves is in my yard.  This young tree is ready to move on to a place of distinction. It has grown from a tiny little sprig and now is strong enough to make the move into the open. I have a larger one I nurtured in my flower bed now established in the midst of the front yard. Someday its large branches will throw shade on the pasture, house a multitude of bird nests and remind us of the sacrifices made in Connecticut's infancy.

When I share Connecticut history storytelling I often will tell about the Charter Oak.  Many people are still unaware of the reason the oak leaf is a  common Connecticut  symbol.  We can continue to  promote the freedoms the colonists felt so strong about preserving in that early charter by remembering and sharing the story of the Connecticut Charter Oak.

Note in the sign below from the University of Connecticut the use of the Charter Oak symbolism.

to find out more visit:   the Connecticut Historical Society  the Connecticut State Library

to book a Connecticut History Storytelling Program

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

New Images

I was privileged to attend and share the day yesterday with a program called New Images under the direction of EastConn Educational Services.The youth attending  were all from a middle school seventh and eighth grade. They had gone on field trips produced digital photography, developed  photoshop edits which included adding their own Haiku poetry to the image. The art show of their enlarged images  was a feast for the eyes. 

I shared a storytelling and photography day with them. I opened with  slide show done on photo tech site. The slides show was put to music and had some fun embellishments like bubbles on a horse bathing picture and lightning on a cloudy sky picture. Most were as taken right from my lens to the screen.

I shared stories, one of my father,Herman Marshall's career as a professional news photographer for the Hartford Courant. This was the inspiration for my picking up the camera and taking photos.  After this story I talked to them about how news reporting has widened to include everyone since the advent of the internet. How news photos could come from anyone who is carrying a photographic device. We are all star reporters of the news now.  

I shared a story of  a young woman, Abbie Burgess Light House Keeper her heroic deeds  a legacy for over 100 years and an inspiration that we may find our life's work from any moment. I tied this in to the opportunity to take pictures when vacationing and a way to learn through the lens and story.

This was a wonderful group of young people who came to Eastern Connecticut State University for the culmination of this program. I can still recall the beautiful images they created and am inspired by their work.
A Scavenger Hunt for Picture Details

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Review: Tales From The Hills By Mike Lockett

Tales From the Hills  A Storytelling CD by Mike Locket

         The soft mountain music eases us into the CD and whisks us away to a front porch nestled along a creek bed in the cusp of a Appalachian mountain. A tail of wood smoke curls down from a chimney and carries the scent of old apple wood and the rocker is squeaking out a rhythm old as time.

              The stories of Appalachia are as old as the people's history and are timeless lessons delivered in a slow easy style. Jack a predominant character is up to his usual hi jinks. Somehow I can almost see the dusty footfalls as Lazy Jack tries to carry  a donkey on his back all the way home.  Jack's feet and the hind feet of the donkey dragging down a dusty road in a century old tale.

             Mike Lockett is known as the Normal Storyteller. His work is not normal, it is extraordinary in its delivery of simple  classic stories told like he was on the spot the day the event happened. The CD Tales From The Hills has nine stories on it. With one story a night you could get the kids to rush to bed just to listen for a whole week and then some. Let Grandpa listen and use it to cue some family stories you won't believe have been hidden all these years. Your turkey hunting friends are bound to love the tale about Jack's hunt with only one bullet. You see there really is a little something for everyone on the CD.

                 Don't think you need to rush to the store to find this.  What is not old fashioned is Mike's easy way to acquire his story CD's. Just go visit and you can download the CD right to your computer and burn it to a disc. It is so easy. In just 5 minutes you could be relaxing on a front porch listening to wonderful stories.
              A real treat would be to catch a live performance of the Normal Storyteller Mike Lockett. Check out his website   for more information on where you can hear him up close and personal - just like you were on that porch in the mountains.
Ichabod the donkey is all ears as he listens to the story of Lazy Jack and the donkey.   The Story of Lazy Jack and others from his CD, Tales From The Hills


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Jorgensen Presents The Aluminum Show : A Review

 May 18, 2011 The Jorgensen Center for Performing Arts on the campus if the University of Connecticut presented the first night of ... 
The Aluminum  Show, an electric performance of music, and dance. The interactive performance was a feast for the eyes and the ears. ( for ticket info and other shows) The vibrant intensity of the show was magical.  I saw the same look of delight on children and adults. There was a palpable  tension as the  show crept off the stage and invaded the audience which responded with laughter. One of the most stunning moments was the realization that an aluminum tube could evoke feelings and emotions.

 This talented troupe of dancers, actors, puppet masters and robotics engineers together told a story with no language, charged it with sound ,color, light and music, and acted out with the use of large pieces of recycled construction Aluminum. From the moment the stage curtain was gobbled up until the last piece of shiny confetti landed on the floor I was entranced!

At one point the little "slinky" character was lost in the audience. A boy lifted him to a troupe member with " I believe this is yours", his smile said it all, he was loving it!  Another audience member played a roll when the flashlight beam fell on him, he was chosen and  soon was encased in foil and worshipped like a false idol, and then.... no I won't tell that part. You will have to go see that for yourself.
                                       Slinky meets a young audience member after the show!

The show grew with more fantastic stunts and gymnastic type dance movements as the performance reached its crescendo.  Larger than life Aluminum characters played their role. to make the whole experience feel huge!  Several times the stage reached a climax and I thought it was over only to have the music and lights flash and we were swept into a new scene.

There was so much creativity in the design, choreography, lighting, sound and humor of the script to make this a pure pleasure!  I urge you to see the Aluminum Show! Brilliantly Done!

Audience members enjoy meeting the cast after the show!

You can find the Aluminum Show on Face Book stop by and see where they go next.


You can book The Aluminum Show by contacting:
Columbia Artists Management,LLC
1790 Broadway
NY, NY 10019

Friday, May 13, 2011

Beat the Goose? Only in Accesible Art Please

In my web travels found this wonderful TED talk on a new Google program  about art. Not just any art, but the materpieces of the world  now accesible at your finger tips!  Visit some of the most renowned art museums and mouse through the corridors and galleries. Then use the technology to see beyond the screen right into the work.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

3rd Annual Donkey and Mule Show at Bishops Orchard

Bishops Orchard in Guilford CT. played host to the
Third Annual Donkey and Mule Show
Mr. Bill Garrett
Saturday May 7, 2011 The judge was Mr. Bill Garrett of  Garrett Mammoth Jackstock Farms in Stillwell, Oklahoma. He has been raising Mammoth jack donkeys and breeding mules for over 40 years.  Having his experience at the show was a highlight for all who were exhibiting. Several animals in the ring originally came from his breeding program. Over the years upwards of 6000 donkeys have passed through the care of Bill Garrett.  It was an incredible opportunity for all who were showing to  be in the ring with such a knowledgeable judge. Congratulations to Miss Elizabeth WIlliams who was high point for the day..

Judge Bill Garrett goes down the line in  showmanship class

Miniature, Standard and Mammoth donkeys and mules came to the show. From a very tiny donkey named  Peanut to  a large mammoth named Sandy there was every color and size to see at the show.  In the picture above Mr. Garrett takes time to talk with our tiniest exhibitor who had Mom standing by " just in case", but this little lady knew her job and she and Peanut had a great day.
The Ring of Fire is  a standard in the obstacle class

Given a direct breeze the streamers were in constant motion as the donkeys and mules walked up to the ring of fire. Most made the trip through the obstacle without notice.  The course at this show was one of the best I have seen to date with  varied, jumps, common and uncommon obstacles including parts of a disassembled tube slide.  Patience and time go in to training the donkeys for obstacle class. Cookie rewards made the day fun or the donkeys.  Some of the newer  donkeys on the circuit ( a couple recent rescues included) skipped over obstacles they were not ready for yet but several made the course look easy like Drew Capelli did with his donkey winning the class handily.
A Game of Cat and Mouse

Here our little 3 year old exhibitor and her Donkey a 5 year old miniature named Peanut  took the win in the Costume Class. It just doesn't get any cuter than to see these kids come out and have fun with their pets.

I ( Carolyn Stearns - Announcer)  had a busy day in the announcers booth keeping everybody in the audience informed as to what was happening in the ring. It was important to keep the exhibitors on track as to which classes were coming up. It was an outstanding turnout for the event which tied in with the Bishop Orchard Blossom Fest. The hay rides through orchards in full bloom ran full all day long. What a perfect way for the whole family to spend the day together.

You can find both the New England Donkey and Mule Club and Bishops Orchard on Facebook stop by and see the pictures as everyone puts them up!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Report From the 30 th CT. Storytelling Festival

My Report from the
30 th  Connecticut Storytelling Festival and Conference
April 29, 30, May 1, 2011 at Conn. College New London, CT.

         Anticipation hardly covers the feeling of excitement  I feel when my car heads toward New London, CT. I know before long my brain will be swirling in a sea of story. That I will be swept away on a tide of spoken word is the  desire and is always satisfied. This year there was such a richness to the stories that stretched from teary drama to side splitting laughter. Back and forth we  went from one extreme to the other stretching my mind to absorb the images and emotions and music that poured at me. The Friday night concert of stories was so much fun, as was the Saturday morning tribute  concert.

At he lunch break there was a sharing room and I slid in with my plate and settled. I listened to quite a few relaxed and enjoyed the stories finally getting up near the end to share one when a lull had come.  I told a favorite horse story, I have a lot of those. Stories my horse experience helps me with to evoke the feeling of going for the ride, of hearing that mud suction the hooves in rhythmic pattern. My friend Kelly grabbed my camera and caught this picture of me mid story.

I attended the first afternoon concert to see Megan Hicks of Virginia and I loved her Stories from the Homefront. These came from memories of her mother, a young woman in the 1940's. The performance was brilliant! She shared the stage with Simon Brooks of New Hampshire and formerly of England. Here was a great balance as I laughed so hard at a couple of Simon's tales, well told and animated.

Then it was time for afternoon workshops.  I was sharing my new workshop titled; "My Web Presence is Dead and Other Fear Factors" It didn't take long for people to follow these "digital footprints" up the hall to the room I was in. I had a really nice group participate and we  used our 90 minutes to get an overview of the different social media platforms that can be used to spread the word about storytelling and  promote our websites, work, venues and events. The goal was to give people a layman's terms explanation and inspire them to try some new things after the workshop. 

We looked at simple websites, FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs,You-Tube. Up on the screen everyone could see the examples of my pages we discussed content and key words and where to begin. We even had a web grow with in the room to make a visual representation of the World Wide Web and how things are found and move about. Workshop attendees were reminded that if I can do this so can they. I hope they have a little more courage to face the web and know they can always escape or send me an email question.

Saturday night brought the powerful main concert with Tim Tingle of Oklahoma followed by my Campus Slammer Showcase mic. We had 60 people in the showcase mic room and heard some very fun stories.  The Campus Slammer blog will have a report on that soon at  Many thanks to my friend Kelly Trueb who came to all the Campus Slammers and helped out and was there behind the scenes at  the CT. Storytelling Festival working away.
        Sunday morning came and I was tired, but ready for more stories. We began with coffee which is always welcome!  Tim Tingle and Carol Birch shared the stage with a comparative between two tellings of the same story - a very interesting look at  the effects created by how and who delivers a story and the voices that they use to impart a story. There was a long question and answer time that covered a wide range of story details.

        When they were done the story triggering began. I was the first teller in the story triggering performance with my tale of the Angel of the Battlefield. At story triggering after each teller comments are made from the audience on what thoughts, memories or companion stories are evoked with the telling of the story. Being a Civil War story this  brought out many different view points and memories. 3 more tellers and sharing sessions followed mine. Then it was over, all to quick the air was still and the only stories left were those that kept me company in my mind on the ride home from the 30 th Connecticut Storytelling Festival.