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Have Stories, Will Travel
Of all the Fringe Festivals in the world, the Rogue has a reputation for being storyteller-friendly. This might explain why Ellouise Schoettler traveled all the way from her usual Washington DC haunts to return to the Rogue Festival. I recently asked Ellouise about her upcoming Rogue show, “Yesterday's Secrets,” and why she wanted to come all this way to tell stories.
I enjoyed the Rogue last year, but more than that… I feel at home in Fresno. I've been visiting Fresno regularly since 1961 because my husband Jim is a native son. He grew up in the Tower District and graduated from Fresno State before he came East. We come often to visit family and to tell you the truth I have come to love the wide skies and open spaces of the Valley… so different from the East Coast.
And I appreciate the vibrant art scene in Fresno. The Rogue is another example of that art spirit and I am very happy to be a part of it.
Last year, you chose to tell stories in a thrift store. What was that like?
It was great! I have been shopping at the la Tienda Guild Thrift Shop since the 1970s -– La Tienda is a Fresno "destination" for me. One of my favorite stories, “The Wedding Dress,” is about a dress I bought there. For the show, we pushed the clothes racks to the side, made an open space and it was airy, comfortable, and inviting. It especially worked because the theme of the program fit the thrift shop location.
You're often known for telling personal stories. But for this year's Rogue, you're taking a different approach, with “Old stories of tricksters, villains and lovers.” Why the change?
About fifteen years ago I came to storytelling as a subversive tactic to tell family history stories to my adult children. Like most genealogy enthusiasts I had been boring them to death with all the begats and then they died. Storytelling changed all that. But I was raised by people who did not tell fairy tales-- they told stories about themselves. So I focused on personal stories and family history for adults until about five years ago, when I decided to try telling for children. I found a new audience and a new wealth of stories: folktales. I discovered the richness of 398.2, the folktale section of the library. It's a new world for me--and now I perform often in the schools in the greater Washington area using folktales, traditional stories and nature tales.
Well that just naturally led me to begin telling folktales in programs for adults, first by adding an old tale in with personal stories and now just flat out folktales for adults. The real fun is that adult audiences love the old stories: the real versions, not the prettified, sanitized stories from Disney and company. But the old tales that touched the unconscious and taught about life. They still do. In one story that I tell --the king keeps adding test after test for the hopeful prince before he will hand over his daughter -- and a guy told me afterwards, "you know something, I worked for a boss like that once."
So that is what I am telling at the Rogue: Stories with magic, mystery and romance and yes, hidden messages. Stories with a sense of humor, a touch of the ridiculous… and a measure of truth. People say, "old stories are not good because they are old,they are old because they are good".
I hear you're rethinking your “R” rating, and changing it to a “G – older kids.”
I think I did a number on myself at the outset thinking that I needed to tell bawdy stories at a "fringe" festival. And as I searched for, and then selected the stories I wanted to tell ,the program evloved away from R to a the program for adults that older kids-- 10 and up -- would enjoy too. Everyone hears a story at their own level of understanding and a good teller understands how to walk that line so that all listeners feel satisfied by the story. There to me is a challenge worth the effort.
Anything else you'd want audiences to know about your show?
I want listeners to leave my programs wanting to hear me tell more old stories. In fact, I hope they will come back to hear another of my programs. The four programs will not be exactly the same.
Ellouise Schoettler calls herself an “old-time southern storyteller,” just like those she grew up listening to in her native North Carolina. She tells stories for adult and young audiences, and has been a featured performer at Strathmore Hall Arts Center, Bethesda, MD, Speakeasydc, Washington, DC and The Grape Vine Story Fest, Gum Springs, VA. Schoettler is storyteller-in-residence for the Audubon Naturalist Society, Chevy Chase, MD
YESTERDAY's SECRETS - Old tales of magic, mystery and romance. "Nothing pink and pale and plastic". Tales for adults and suitable for kids 10 and up (New Rating!).
Saturday March 2 1 PM
Sunday March 3 3:45 PM
Friday March 7 5 PM
Saturday March 8 6:15 PM
Tickets: $4 at the door
LOCATION: Ashtree Studio 1035 N Fulton Fresno, CA