Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ol' Bess

Tonight I do another performance of "Ol' Bess Speaks at a Gathering" for a Worldstrides, Inc. student group. It is my most popular program for the incoming school groups and I love being Ol' Bess. She is still the most requested of all the Persons of the Past that I portry. But who is Ol' Bess and where did she come from?

In 1999, while working at Colonial Williamsburg, I was asked by Diane Elliott (oh, how I miss her) to be a part of a new program, "Dueling: Point of Honor." It was to be a program with three 20-minute sections, ending with a Duel at the end. I was to be section one to portray Ol' Bess (a fictional slave that worked at the Raleigh Tavern, where our program took place) who relates the documented tale of a couple of men who blustered about having a duel but their times were crossed so it never happened. I was excited about the role, but couldn't quite wrap my head around how to present it. Diane Elliott, a great Director, gave me specific instructions, while helped make Ol' Bess very real.

Well, I must have been good. People fell in love with Ol' Bess. Soon people began to stay after my presentation time and ask Ol' Bess questions about her family. "Do you have a husband?" Because I was in costume and character I couldn't say, "Hey, this is a made up person.", so I said, "Yes." Then "What's his name?" "Caesar." And so my husband was born. People seem satisfied. Later people asked if Ol' Bess had children. So I made up children. I was alredy using the name "Julius" as a son in another program, because that was the way I included my son. I had told him whenever I refer to "Julius" that is really you. So Ol'Bess had a Julius (who always ages at the same rate as my real son, Kriss) and other children. Then people began to come back to the Raleigh Tavern in the day and ask our Mr. Southall about Ol' Bess. Aw, comes the confusion!

That was when it became advantageous to learn about the real slaves that were in the Raleigh Tavern. So, Ol' Bess incorporated some of their lives into her stories. Once the program ended, I started using the Ol' Bess moniker in my Storytelling performances with "Legends."

When I started my own business, Ol' Bess came along with me, because the "Dueling" program had become defunk and because she had grown to be a part of me. I have learned far more about taverns, about the lives of slaves and indentured servants, and about the Revolutionary War since that time in 1999 and it all comes into play.

So where is Ol' Bess in life now? Well, she's about 50 years old (5 years older than my real age); married to Caesar, the gardener for Master Wythe; has 4 living children - Julius, 24 (who has run off to fight with Dunmore), Roma, 21 (who is married to Paul who is at Carter's Grove and watches Mistress Southall's children), Nera, 20 (who was most recently sold at the Raleigh Tavern auction to a man in Fredericksburg) and Mary, 10 - 14 (her age changes dependent on the the audience I have). Finally, I have the daughter who died, between Nera and Mary - her naem was Claudia and she lived 3 days and is buried on the floor of the Raleigh Tavern Kitchen (no, not for real).

So when you see Ol' Bess know that she is a wise woman, with great dignity, who has accepted her role as a slave as she is called, but is not enslaved in her mind. Peace.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Elaina's Birthday Dance - How it Came to Be

I received the evaluations from the Moonshell Storytelling Festival 2010. The feedback was very positive for my performances and I'm thrilled to see what worked, and deduce what I can improve on. Many people liked the story, "Elaina's Birthday Dance" and the way it was presented. Here are the comments:
Sheila's story of Elaina Dancing - Sheila's actions
Elana – Because Sheila incorporated music and dance
Dancing Elena – fun and poignant
Dancing Elena – very much part of life
Elaina’s birthday party – Shows mother’s love and girl’s dream
Elena – Sheila Arnold – Song and Dance and Story!!
Little girl who danced – because it was fun and had a lot of expression

This story is also on my CD, "Hands Wide Open", and I have surprised and delighted about how many adults have spoken so highly of this story, along with kids. I think the comment above, "shows mother's love and girl's dream" is a common thread I have heard from people.

This is an original story and I'd like to share how it came to be. I was performing in the public schools of Zuni, New Mexico. My contact person had planned an evening program for parents where I would speak about storytelling. She had a large cake, soft drinks, cookies, the works and only 2 parents and 5 kids came. I never worry about turnout because I truly believe that God has those come who need to be there, and my job is to serve and love them. The parents, contact person and I sat and I shared a story or two, but then we talked about how they could share stories with their kids. One of the parents asked me how she could make up a story for her child. I said, "well, you can start with her name. What's her name?" "Elaina." "What does she like to do?" "Dance." "Well, you could start with something about Elaina loving to dance and..." - And the Story JUST CAME! I gave that story to the Mom to share with her daughter, having noted that the daughter was entranced.

I didn't present that story for almost 2 years. Then as I was preparing stories to tell at Chrysler Museum (Norfolk, VA) "Tickle My Ear" Pre-School Storytelling Series, I realized I needed another story with the theme, and "Elaina's Birthday Dance" came to mind. I knew this was a longer story for the little ones, but I thought I'd give it a try. I was stunned to see the little ones, and their parents, completely entranced. The children didn't move. So, the story became a staple - with many changes, additions and deletions to make it a stronger story and presentation along the way.

Now, it's your turn. Take the name and description of a person, combine it with something they like (or maybe don't like) and see what fictional story you can come up with. I hope you'll share it with me, sheilaarnold39@aol.com. Peace and belief,

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Colonial Williamsburg Storytelling Festival 2010

Today is the Colonial Williamsburg Storytelling Festival. Actually it started last night with Dovie Thompson. She's amazing and so incredibly kind and sweet. Today we have an afternoon program which includes her, Donald Davis, Shel Browder (?) and Megan Hicks. Looking forward to meeting Megan. Then in the evening is Donald Davis - I think by himself - we'll see.

This morning the Williamsburg Storytelling Collaborative is having a Storytelling Concert at the Kimball Theatre. Myself, Sharon Rogers, Anthony Boucher and Gillian Dawson are performing. It should be fun. The money raised this morning will go to National Storytelling Network. This is a wonderful organization which has the focus to help preserve and disseminate the art of storytelling. Check out the website. Well, I have to go and press my caftan - yes, another one. :)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Marketing Opportunitites

Yesterday was a productive day - lots of work completed. I am realizing I will always have more work to do, particularly in the area of marketing. I have found a few more areas to check for programming possibilities: a) Performing Arts Centers at Universities/Colleges; b) Youth Education Programs at Museums and c)County Arts Councils and Societies.

As a self-employed person one of the most important things I can continue to do is market my services. I continue to talk and communicate with my regular Teacher Friends around the country. However, I do some "cold" calls as well. I send out a brochure or envelope of information and then follow-up that mailing with a phone call. Okay, let me be honest, that is a Mary Kay, Inc., technique. I will say again, as I have said often, the best Marketing class I ever had was my training as a Mary Kay Consultant. These marketing skills are still an active part of my life. Thanks, Mary Kay. The other place I find marketing opportunities is finding out where other performers and storytellers have gone; not so I can directly compete in that area, but it gives me ideas of similiar areas to approach. For instance, Pippa White (an amazing performer) has programs about nurses and has been able to access lots of Nursing Conferences. In reading that, I realized I needed to make more of a focus in talking with "African-American" and "Busines Women" organizations for my Character Presentations.

Finally, the other opportunity for Marketing that has been great, has been working with Virginia Storytelling Association (VASA). Being a member of an organization in my field gives me opportunities I didn't have before. Since joining VASA I have increased my Virginia performances because they list all their members and the website. I'm not certain that Linkedin and Facebook have helped, but I'm trying to utilize them more. I am a member of NSN, but that hasn't help me see an increase in programming, but does give me ideas through their very good "Storytelling Magazine" and provides a backing as a non-profit, if I want to access other funds. Bottom line, each group I join in my field, has potential to be very helpful.

That's the end of my Marketing Lesson today. :) Peace, Ms. Sheila

Friday, September 10, 2010

Omaha, NE

Good morning, Friends. Well, I arrived yesterday evening in Omaha, NE. I am staying in the home of Verne and Joan Haselwood - a delightful couple with a large family and even larger hearts of love. I could sit around and listen to their stories and share with them all day.

I will be performing this morning at Benson High School, presenting Zora Neale Hurston. This afternoon at Fontenelle Elementary School I'll be doing a General Storytelling Program. Looking forward to returning to Fontenelle, what a blessing to be asked back.

I brought 200 CD's with me to sell between today at the schools and at the Festival tomorrow. What I learned though is that the CD's are heavy, even if they are not jewel cases, so I need to make sure I try hard to ship them. Very excited to be here. Have a great day everyone.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

History's Alive! Fourth Annual Edutainment Winner

Good morning, everyone. The Edutainment Drawing was yesterday and the winner was picked by Gloria, one of my bank tellers. :) No one else was around and they know all about my travels in and out of town. And the winner is (drum roll, please)....

St. John Neumann Academy, Blacksburg, VA.

St. John will be the first Virginia school chosen and the first private school. It will also be the first time I get to work with 6th - 8th graders. All great and good things. They wil receive 6 programs throughout the school year for students, faculty and parents. Basically, I become an "artist-in-residence" at no cost to them.

The one day program winner is - Federal Hill Elementary/Prepartory School, Baltimore, MD. They will get 2 one hour programs, plus an evening program for parents if they like, again completely for free.

Thanks to everyone who did participate in the Drawing. They will get the consolation prize of discounted price of programming if they'd like me to still come to their school. If you don't know this is my absolute passion and favorite thing during the school year. The relationships I get a chance to establish with students and teachers through the year I spend with a school are long-lasting and I watch God at work through them all the time. You will hear more about these schools in the future. And, hopefully, I figure out how to post pictures (since the video didn't work last week).

Tomorrow I leave for the Moonshell Storytelling Festival, Omaha, NE and am eagerly looking forward to that. Peace and much love, Sheila.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A New Month

Hello, Everyone. September has come and my month of relaxtion and rest is coming to a close, but it was nice. My e-mails came down to a workable number (under 100). I have confirmed programming for various dates in October, January, February and April. I am working on the boxes that are laying about my house - even finding books and tapes I'd forgotten I had. I've been getting through some of my computer search items regarding books, articles and general curiousities, as well as adding new videos to my queue on Blockbuster.com. I'm working on my taxes - yes, late, but finally, getting done. I've been preparing for my upcoming programs. It's been good.

Today I perform at Chrysler Museum (Norfolk, VA) as part of the "Tickle My Ears" program - 4 years for me with the museum. I will do 2 storytelling programs for pre-schoolers, based on the theme "One Bowl for You, Two Bowls for Me." The focus is dishes. And, yes, it was a challenge to figure out what to tell. However, I put together some stories: "In a People House" by Theo LeSeig; "Teaching Mr. Wolf Manners" - an original story; some counting songs: "5 LIttle Monkeys" & "The Ants Come Marching one by one"; we are in the Indian/Islamic Gallery - so an Indian Story - I think I'm doing "The young Reader" (Margaret McDonald), but possibly "Ali Baba and the 39 theives", and finish with the child's point of view of the Grimms Tale, "The Old Man and the Bowl." We have singing, short stories, longer stories, books, a classic story - all should make for a great program (hopefully).

The CD is selling very slowly right now, in spite of the fact that I'm in the midst of a Back-to-School Sale. I've only sold 3 during this sale. Hopefully, when I go to next week's Moonshell Storytelling Festival (Omaha, NE), I will sell a lot more. I'm going to try and paste on a video of me telling "Teaching Mr. Wolf Manners" - done at home as a practice session. Here goes:Okay, it's supposedly uploading.

So we'll see. I'll end with the words that are so close to me at the moment, "Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee." That's what I want most in my life is to have my life be an imitation and an example of Christ's. Love you all. Take care.