Monday, March 12, 2012

Never Turn Your Back On A Story

So back in 1987 I was working as a teaching artist for San Diego Institute for Arts Education. SDIAE was a program based on the Aesthetic Literacy model developed by philosopher, Maxine Greene, and implemented by the Lincoln Center Institute. While working with a class of kindergarten children on story structure, I developed an heroic treatment of Itsy Bitsy Spider (it became something of a signature piece in later years) that was a blend of Mother Goose and Homer. My inspiration came right out of Joseph Campbell's "Hero With A Thousand Faces" where he wrote:
"The characteristic efficacy to touch and inspire deep creative centers dwells in the simplest nursery fairy tale, even as the flavor of the ocean is in a single drop of water, or the mystery of life is in the egg of a flea."
So an epic retelling of this familiar finger play grew out of this work. At the time, it was a fun, tongue-in-cheek, comic romp.
But that same year, a classmate of mine from graduate school suffered what we used to call "a nervous collapse." Today, he would call it a "bi-polar episode." The point is, my close friend was suddenly in an intensive care ward at the area mental health hospital. I visited. He was in bed, heavily sedated, clammy to the touch, with glassy eyes masking a torn and broken soul. I anguished at his side over what I might do to help or comfort him. He said, "Tell me that story about the spider."
There, at his bedside, up close and personal, I told the the epic tale and found myself drawn into the vortex of myth, doing its ancient bidding.
Never turn your back on a story.