Feather of the Firebird

Feather of the Firebird
By: Leslie Slape

Long ago in Russia, there lived a brave huntsman who had a horse that could talk. Every day, he would ride into the dark forest and bring back wonderful things for his master, the Tsar.

One day, he saw something glowing in the darkness. It looked like fire. But when he drew close, he saw it was not fire, but a feather. The feather of the Zhar-ptitsa – the Firebird.

The huntsman knew the old tales. If a man is lucky enough to snatch a feather from the tail of the Zhar-ptitsa, he will have good luck all his days. But as he bent to pick up the feather, his horse spoke:

Stop! Don’t pick up the feather of the Zhar-ptitsa. You will know trouble!”

But the huntsman said, “It is not for myself that I pick it up, but for my master.” And he picked up the feather of the Zhar-ptitsa and brought it to the Tsar, who said:

Well done, my huntsman! No other Tsar in all the lands in all the world possesses such a treasure as the feather of the Zhar-ptitsa! But … what good is only a feather … when I could have the Zhar-ptitsa herself! Go, my huntsman! Go and bring me back the Zhar-ptitsa. And if you fail, I will have your head.”

The huntsman was most distressed! He told the horse what the Tsar had commanded, and the horse said:

“What did I tell you? ‘Don’t pick up the feather of the Zhar-ptitsa, you will know trouble!’ But fear not, grieve not, this is not the real trouble. The real trouble lies ahead. Go ask the Tsar for a golden net, and a golden cord, and a hundred measures of grain.” Then the horse took the huntsman far into the forest and out into a great meadow. The huntsman spread the hundred measures of grain over the meadow, and then he hid in the trees while the horse grazed. Suddenly the earth began to shake and the trees to tremble, and the Zhar-ptitsa flew down from the sky and began to eat the grain. The horse stepped on her wing, and the huntsman threw the golden net over her, and bound her with the golden cord. Then he put her on the back of his horse and took her to the Tsar.

“Well done, my huntsman! No other Tsar in all the lands in all the world possesses such a treasure as the Zhar-ptitsa! But … what good is the Zhar-ptitsa, without a wife to share my glory? I should have the most beautiful woman in the world as my wife! Go, my huntsman! Go and bring me the Princess Vasilissa, who lives in the thrice ninth kingdom at the edge of the world on the blue, blue sea. And if you fail, I will have your head.” The huntsman was most distressed! He told the horse what the Tsar had commanded, and the horse said:

“What did I tell you? ‘Don’t pick up the feather of the Zhar-ptitsa, you will know trouble!’ But fear not, grieve not, this is not the real trouble. The real trouble lies ahead. Go ask the Tsar for a tent with a golden roof, and all manner of fine food and drink.”

Then the horse took the huntsman to the thrice ninth kingdom at the edge of the world, and there he set up the tent with the golden roof on the sand beside the blue, blue sea. Out on the sea was a silver boat with a golden sail, and in the boat was the Princess Vasilissa.

She saw the golden roof shining in the sun and came to shore.

She saw the huntsman and liked what she saw. He invited her into the tent and gave her much fine food to eat and fine wine to drink, and she became sleepy. As she slept, he tied her up with a golden cord, placed her on the back of his horse and took her to the Tsar. Well done, my huntsman! No other Tsar in all the lands in all the world possesses such a treasure as the Princess Vasilissa! We shall be married tomorrow!”

But the Princess Vasilissa took one look at the Tsar – and he was terribly ugly – and stamped her pretty foot.

“I cannot marry the Tsar. I cannot marry anyone without my wedding dress, and no one will be able to find it, for it lies at the bottom of the blue, blue sea, under a stone which no man can lift.”

The Tsar said to the huntsman, “Fool! How could you bring me the Princess Vasilissa without her wedding dress? Go, my huntsman! Go back to the thrice ninth kingdom and bring me the wedding dress of the Princess Vasilissa, which lies at the bottom of the blue, blue sea under a stone which no man can lift. And if you fail, I will have your head.”

The huntsman was most distressed! He told the horse what the Tsar had commanded, and the horse said:

“What did I tell you? ‘Don’t pick up the feather of the Zhar-ptitsa, you will know trouble!’ But fear not, grieve not, this is not the real trouble. The real trouble lies ahead.” The horse took the huntsman back to the thrice ninth kingdom, and there at the edge of the blue, blue sea was a crab. The horse placed his hoof above the crab and said, “Crab! Crab! Go to the bottom of the blue, blue sea, you and your brother crabs and sister crabs, mother crabs and father crabs, and lift the stone which no man can lift. And bring to me the wedding dress of the Princess Vasilissa.”

The crab said, “Master, I obey.” And he went to the bottom of the blue, blue sea, and with him all the brother crabs and sister crabs, mother crabs and father crabs, and they lifted the stone which no man can lift, and they took out the wedding dress of the Princess Vasilissa and brought it to the horse. And the huntsman put it on the back of his horse and brought it to the Tsar.

“Well done, my huntsman! No other Tsar in all the lands in all the world possesses such a treasure as the Princess Vasilissa and her wedding dress! We shall be married tomorrow!”

But the Princess Vasilissa took another look at the Tsar – and he was terribly, terribly ugly – and stamped her pretty foot.

“I cannot marry the Tsar. I cannot marry anyone while the huntsman lives.”

For she saw how the Tsar valued the huntsman, who brought him everything he wanted, and she thought the Tsar would never kill him.

But the Tsar said, “Huntsman! You have offended the Princess Vasilissa, and so you must die. Tomorrow before my wedding, I will have a great cauldron of boiling water placed in the square, and you will climb in it.”

The huntsman was most distressed! He told the horse what the Tsar had commanded, and the horse said:

“What did I tell you? ‘Don’t pick up the feather of the Zhar-ptitsa, you will know trouble!’ And this is trouble! But fear not, I can still save you. Search my saddle blanket until you find a single silken thread from the wedding dress of Princess Vasilissa, and a single golden hair from her head, and a tiny downy feather from the breast of the Zhar-ptitsa. Hide these things in your beard and they will keep you safe.”

The huntsman searched all the night, and found the three things just as the king’s guards arrived. He hid them in his beard and went to the square, where a ladder was set up against a cauldron with a fire blazing beneath. He climbed up the ladder and touched the water – and it did not burn him. He climbed into the cauldron – and the water did not burn him. He ducked all the way down into the water. And when he stood up, all were amazed, for not only was he not dead, he was younger, and stronger, and handsomer than ever before.

And Princess Vasilissa liked what she saw.

The Tsar said, “If a simple huntsman can step into the cauldron and come out as handsome as a Tsar, then what will happen when the Tsar steps into the cauldron?” And he ran up the ladder and plunged into the boiling water – and then he was in trouble! Then the people needed a new Tsar, and who better than the huntsman? And he and the Princess Vasilissa were married. Such a wedding it was!

Then they took the Zhar-ptitsa back to the great meadow, and untied the golden cord and took off the golden net. The earth began to shake and the trees to tremble, and the Zhar-ptitsa flew into the sky … letting fall one bright, shining feather.

The huntsman looked at the feather, then turned to go. But the horse said:

“Stop! This time, the feather is for you.”

And so the huntsman had many more adventures, of which I will tell you another time.

 

Fringe Festival Basics for Storytellers

By: Tim Ereneta

Did you ever wish you were recognized as a storyteller regionally, or nationally? Did you ever think that your pathway to recognition depended on appearing at a storytelling festival? Did you ever ask how you might get to be invited to a festival, only to be told that the festivals only hires storytellers with previous festival experience? A conundrum, to be sure.
One strategy for storytellers to consider is to “go outside the lines,” and develop experience at other performing arts festivals. One democratic avenue to consider in this regard is the Fringe Festival circuit.

Generally, a Fringe Festival is organized as multi-venue festivals where dozens (if not hundreds) of performing arts companies stage their work. These festivals aren’t limited to storytellers: in fact, they take all comers. Dancers, jugglers, magicians, theatre companies, burlesque troupes, stand up comics, improv troupes, rappers, poets, multimedia artists, and street performers fill the stage over a week or two. A Fringe is not the kind of festival with headliners, “first namers” (artists who are so well known you only have to mention their first name), or VIPs. In fact, the talent is usually chosen by lottery! If you participate in a Fringe as a performer, you are a special guest, but so are the dozens of other acts on the bill… and you were all chosen not for your artistic excellence but for your chutzpah that you believe you belong on stage. At a Fringe Festival, the emphasis is on quantity: there are lots of performers, and lots of shows. Shows are generally required to be under an hour, and ticket prices are kept low, to encourage audiences to take risks, and go and see something new. It’s not uncommon for a Fringe audience member to see three or four shows in one night, all for less than a price of a single ticket to a regular professional theatre show in town.

Two analogies might help you picture a Fringe: If you can imagine the Storytelling Festival circuit as a nationwide chain of family-friendly restaurants (each independently owned and operated, but with exactly the same menu at each one, so you exactly what to expect), then the Fringe Festival circuit would be a franchise of eclectic pot luck dinners where the prices are fixed, but no one knows what will be on the menu until the chefs show up.

Analogy number two: Think of the storytelling festival circuit as network television, Fringe Festivals as YouTube. In the former, someone has decided on the programming for you, but in the latter, you can pick and choose from a wide variety of content, from amateur to professional, from good to mediocre to astonishingly awful– but the choice is up to you.

Fringe Festivals are held around the world, with a lively and very active circuit in Canada. To learn more, enter “Fringe Festivals Canada” or “Fringe Festivals US” into your favorite search engine. Fringe websites are not only a great resource to learn about the variety of genres, art forms, and shows within each one, but also the place to get instructions on how you can apply to be part of these celebrations of artistic freedom in the performing arts.

***
Tim Ereneta is an old school storyteller who brings to life forgotten fairy tales for contemporary audiences, in theatres, around campfires, and at Fringe Festivals. http://www.timereneta.com . You can follow him on Twitter: @tereneta

First appeared in July 2009. The contents expressed in any article on Storyteller.net are solely the opinion of author. Articles are under © and should not be used without permission of the author. Contact us if you have questions.

Frequently Asked Questions for Storytellers and Those Who Hire Them

Frequently Asked Questions for Storytellers and those who want to hire them!
By True Thomas

1. What should I expect at a storytelling event?
2. How do I hire a Storyteller?
3. What should I expect from a professional Storyteller?
4. What will ’Tellers expect from you?
5. How do I find a Storyteller?
6. How do I find Storytellers in Southern California?

1. What should I expect at a storytelling event? Storytelling is a strange thing. I belong to the Storytell Listserv where time and again people have tried to define what “storytelling” is. It can involve music, puppets, multiple tellers, props, improvisation, and more. Likewise, each storytelling event is a little different. Some feature a group of master tellers exploring themes like Fools and Wise Men, Tales of the Sea etc, Scary Stories, etc. Others feature one or two tellers, for an in-depth show. Yet another features up to 5 tellers in a great show…. At a festival, you get Olio’s (a group of tellers within a certain time) and features, showcases, etc. where a certain teller or group will hold the stage. These are examples, and there is a lot of variety. By and large storytelling events are on weekends and evenings, seating is a portable chair, indoors or outdoors, with snacks on hand (or for sale) and the show will last 2-3 hours. A festival can last up to 2-3 days, but you can come and go as you please. Unlike most performance type events, Storytellers interact at various levels with the audience, and storytelling audiences that “get into” stories are really fun. You meet great people, and might get to share a few of your own. And afterward, you’ll say, wow, I’ve got to tell my friends about this!

true thomas the storyteller in a black shirt and a red waistcoat storytelling2. How do I hire a Storyteller? First- GREAT! Thinking about hiring a teller! Bless you, spread the word, and keep the faith! Before you pick up the phone, here are some things to consider. Every Storyteller is different, but let’s make some assumptions. If you are hiring a storyteller, this is a business type decision. So just as any business would, you are hiring a contractor to come in and do a certain task. Storytellers are the most flexible people I know in terms of capabilities. Part of that comes from the art, as you can weave a story around almost anything. If you are hiring a storyteller, you’ll need to know your specifics, the Who/When/Where/Why/What/ and How.

A. Date, time, Location, Duration:

B. Type of stories/entertainment you want: What is the theme of the event, or type of audience. Often times the Teller can work with you to get “Just that special note” that makes an event memorable.

C. What kind of event it is: Quiet, rowdy, indoor, outdoors, etc.

D. What kind of audience: This is very important to the teller, as Traditional Whaling songs may not be appropriate for Greenpeace, etc. The teller will need to know as much as you can tell them about the type of people you are expecting. You need to know what your budget is: Generally professional Tellers have 4 deciding factors for gigs-

a. How big (30? 300? 1000?)
b. duration (several class rooms over a day, 1 half hour show, etc.)
c. How much Pre-work will be necessary (Am I researching stories for this event i.e. Stories about Garlic for a Garlic Festival, or just telling fun stories to a group of Adults/Kids/Prisoners, etc.)
d. How far the teller needs to go. (How much time will it take to get there, and back, etc.)

Understand that a storyteller is just like anyone else, in that they need to make a living. Things like Medical, Dental, Taxes, Insurance, Rent, Food, Kids, Computers, Publicity, Gas, Auto maintenance, etc. all need to be taken into consideration of the rate of a teller. You as an event producer, have some things you can sweeten the deal with- If a Teller is going to get a lot publicity, spend the night in a great seaside hotel, etc. Fun enters into it- if this is a worthy cause, they could be more flexible. Likewise, if you want a certain teller but your budget is tight, with a little legwork, you could maybe help line up some other gigs at schools etc. Then as a package, everyone will get a lower rate, and a lot more storytelling. Most tellers will be happy to give you a rate, and explain it over the phone. Tellers depend on good word of mouth (literally) and so if the teller is a working professional, they’ll be able to help you. My observations as to the types of tellers… (These are the opinions of True, and not those of anyone else….)

“A Full time Teller”

Usually has literature, a website, tapes, etc. They run it as a business, and make their living telling stories, offering workshops, etc. They have contracts and info packages. (Pro’s and Con’s: Pro- High reliability, consistent performances, more flexible schedules, and usually better known. Cons: Booking needs to be done earlier, sometimes tellers get a little burned out, prices can be higher.)

“A Part-Time Teller” Is somebody who does not do it full time. Storytelling supplements their income, and there may not be a big enough market in their area to support a full time teller, etc. The Full-time teller life is a hard one, and the fluctuations of the freelance market are not well understood by landlords and kids. It’s not for everyone. Also, some tellers come to storytelling later in life- and want to finish their 20 years as an executive, or whatever. I want to point out that many of these “Part-Time” tellers can be every bit as good as a “Full-time teller”.

(Pro’s and Con’s: Pro- Reliable, more flexible in terms of creating/researching, etc. usually not as expensive. Con’s: Schedule is not as flexible {A teacher might have mornings locked up etc.} so availability increases with notice. They may not be as well known. Consistency is less “locked”)

“Pro-bono Teller/ Almost free”

This could be a retiree, a person just doing it for the love of telling, someone developing their chops, etc. Most Pro and Semi-Pro tellers do a number of Pro-bono gigs for good causes as well. In this case, things like reliability, and ability are totally subjective. You get what you pay for. Sometimes you can get an incredible teller for nothing. Or one that blows you off, or goes on and on, and on.

The important thing to remember is that whenever a teller endeavors to entertain, this is a skill, and effort. Do what you can to repay the intent and effort, even if that’s a thank you note, gift bag, etc.

True’s hiring tips:

– Sometimes a teller who is “known” for a certain thing- kids, Celtic, etc. is dying to try out some new material, new audiences. This can help you get some tellers who are looking to expand their markets! And get you a great teller who has their “chops” down.

– Lead-time is a great thing- and a locked in gig, with months in advance and with creative license for the teller can really be enticing.

– The more you do follow-up, write thank you letters, get positive comments from the audience and pass them on, etc, the more you support the teller.

– This is an art form, and one that needs promoters. In turn that Teller can turn you onto a lot of other good tellers, make suggestions and more!

3. What should I expect from a professional Storyteller? Every teller is different, just like most businesses. Some are happy with a verbal contract over the phone (and legally binding), and others might fax you a contract. A Pro should give you the following:

A. Show up on time, with a little lead-time for “surprises”

B. Appropriate dress, and performance material. Material should be pre-agreed on.

C. PR photos/ headshots for you to use, as well as a bio and introduction.

D. They should hit their marks in terms of length, and produce a “quality product” (No two audiences are alike, so you never know. The important thing is that the teller gets up and delivers a consistent and reasonable story)

E. They should be able to furnish you with a receipt, upon request. (It will usually be sent once they get home).

F. They telephone/e-mail contact numbers to get a hold of them in case of emergencies.

G. When dealing with guests, VIP’s and audience members, they should reflect well on the craft of Storytelling and your event (patience, charming, etc.)

H. They are guests, and should not breach etiquette or hospitality.

I. They should be willing to allow for publicity both for and after events. (The event producer should tell them ahead of time what this might entail….)

J. Every Teller should leave an event with good thoughts about storytelling in the minds of the producers and audience about them, and storytelling in general.

4. What will ’Tellers expect from you? Tellers need you to help create the mood, the environment where they can work their magic. The producer is the unseen partner of the teller. Here are some suggestions, no particular order.

Well, first, the tellers are going to need all the information covered in “how to hire a teller”. Care and feeding of a Teller is not that hard. Tellers will need accurate maps and contact numbers to get a hold of you. One of these numbers has to be a way to get a hold of you just before a gig (if someone gets lost, calling your home won’t help…)

Most tellers are pretty flexible, but “big surprises” like promising an audience of 30 and ending up with a hall of 300, is likely to be a bit flustering. They will need a “handler” who will meet the teller, get them situated, and help move them and their gear as need be. If your venue includes kids, kid wranglers are a must, and they should know not to interrupt the teller if at all possible (quietly removing unruly kids, etc.)

If dealing with kids, sitting some adults in the audience is a good idea. Sometimes, tellers get treated like “a video tape” and the parents/ teachers/hosts proceed to talk loudly in the background. Likewise, if a teller is performing at a large function, giving them a quiet corner, or room to perform in will make all the difference. Let your crew know that the respect they pay the teller will influence the audience.

Having a quiet place to change clothes, rehearse, and stow gear securely is very handy. For the record, changing clothes in a public bathroom is awkward at best. If you will need sound or lighting, these need to be resolved and tested before the teller arrives. Any gig with more than 30 people could require a sound system. Having water available, and place for the teller to rest, and eat off stage is good too!

Most tellers would prefer a check made out to them, given to them at the end of the performance. They will need to examine it (nothing personal, just to make certain names, and prices are correct) on site. With any publicity (clippings, posters, etc.), copies should be given to the teller. Likewise, taking photo’s at the gig is usually okay, but not during a dramatic part of the story (unless you are using a professionally “blimped”) camera. Tellers and producers always need new photos.

A teller may leave a follow up sheet, for you to make suggestions and offer compliments, likewise getting feedback from the audience and passing that on that as well can be truly helpful. Always keep track of what stories a teller tells, just in case they’ll be back- and you may or may not want a repeat.

If the Teller has a lot of gear, or needs to deal with a dark parking lot at night, be aware- the teller does not know what you know. A little help can go a long way, so the “handlers” should make certain everything is okay from beginning to end. (The handlers are best if they are calm types, who know who the players are.)

Onstage, a Teller may need a mike either on a stand or a clip on. Plan for sound checks. Tell your sound person that tellers have a pretty big dynamic range. Often times, Full or Part time tellers will have their own mikes, and sound systems. Check compatibilities and needs. Tellers might need a stool to sit on (not too low) or table to set stuff on. Lighting should be high enough in the audience for the teller to make eye contact (and if the house spot is on, it’s like being speared like a bug) – tellers like to see their audiences.

Audiences- not too warm, not too long, not too noisy. If you’ve parked the audience in a thoroughfare, with an electric band and a jumper nearby, and with no shade… then the teller will be talking to only a few people. This is what we call “Storytelling Hell”. Give the teller a pleasant non-distracting environment, cool-ish, and a visual place to look for cues from the stage manager. Some tellers make ask you to give them time cues, or be in a certain place if they need to ask someone to adjust audio, or deal with an audience member.

All in all, a little planning and consideration can make for an incredible storytelling event.

5. How do I find a Storyteller? Before you look for one, have in mind the kind of event and teller you might need. Because once you get on the phone, the creative part of you joins the business part of you. Hopefully when you talk to the teller you’ve got a pretty good idea of what you want. This will cut down on the phone time, and let the teller work with you on the creative side. What kind of stories do we want to do! Every teller has specialties and strengths. Some are good with kids, others with adults, and some with corporate types.

One of the best ways to find storytellers is to go to storytelling events. You get to see them in action. Talk to the event coordinators (usually a few days after the show). Check web pages (like ours) or the National Storytelling Network www.storynet.org/newdir/ –This is a directory on the network, as well as the regional Liaisons at www.storynet.org/NSN/Liaisons.htm who can give you recommendations. Likewise, here at , there is a handy directory. Every teller I know has favorite tellers they like- and will be glad to refer you. If at all possible talk to people who have seen the teller in action, and see if there are tapes, audio or video available.

Tellers come from all walks of life, and there are people who might not think of themselves as storytellers, but are absolutely wonderful speakers, and natural tellers. So keep an open mind, and look for those people. But remember that this person may not be comfortable in front of a mike with 50 people watching them intently. So a few dry runs might be in order.

Good Luck and may your stories be Legendary!-

***
True Thomas is an experienced storyteller, performer and author living in California.




This article first appeared in 2001. The contents expressed in any article on Storyteller.net are solely the opinion of author. Articles are under © and should not be used without permission of the author. Contact us if you have questions.

Review: Mischief Adventures of a Daydreamy Child

We’re reviewing Lynn Ruehlmann’s CD: “Mischief: Adventures of a Daydreamy Child.”

From bringing down the house (really) to singing sacred music in the bathroom of the Chinese restaurant, young Lynn kept her parents and older sister busy with her wild imagination and imaginary playmate.

In this CD of personal tales, Lynn takes her listeners on a fun ride through childhood events remembered innocently and playfully. In each piece, she recreates the many players in a subtle shifting of voice, intonation and enunciation.

Lynn incorporates the tunes of folk musicians as she enters into each story. The music is fun to listen to and we are always glad to see collaborative projects between artists. Next time, rather than random folk music, we would suggest that the musicians reinterpret some old hymns into their bluegrass sound, should Lynn decide to share more of her “church kid” adventures.

The CD is professionally recorded and produced. While the title does feature the word “child” in it, we think these stories are best suited for adults and older teens that may be looking for “remember when you might have acted like this” nostalgia. We’re pretty sure you wouldn’t want to inspire any young children to use Lynn’s stories as a road map for their own adventures. Or perhaps you would- if you love mischief as Lynn does.

We received a complimentary copy of the recording for this review. Get your copy from Amazon.com.

***
This review is written by the Staff of Storyteller.net. It first appeared 2012.