Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Dish of Lime-Vanilla Ice

Lime-Vanilla Ice
“Where would you like to go first? I can take you there. I can weave the spell.”
Bren & Lucille Brenemen with Jackie Torrance, 1984 
So says Helen Loomis to Bill Forrester in a chapter of Ray Bradbury’s novel, Dandelion Wine. So said Lucille Brenemen to me as we together told the tale. Lucille was a great fan of Ray Bradbury’s work in general, and Dandelion Wine in particular.  With his permission, she shaped and edited it for our tandem telling at the National Storytelling Festival in 1992. I met Lucille a few years before. She and her husband, Bren, relocated to San Diego from Honolulu when Lucille retired from 35 years teaching in the Speech Department of the University of Hawaii. The two of them were well-known for their excellent adaptations of literature and a charming tandem storytelling style. (They were featured at the National Festival in 1988.) Their book, Once Upon A Time: A Storytelling Handbook, remains an excellent  text on the art and craft of storytelling. I first saw them tell Andersen’s It’s Perfectly True. The storytelling was witty and charming, and immediately won me over. 
Lucille Brenemen
Lucille was a poised, intelligent, and attractive woman who loved life and greeted each moment with an open heart and a ready smile. She had what we used to call “class.” Outwardly she was cultured and delicate, with an easy grace. Yet within, she was strong as steel and nobody’s fool. Born in Texas in 1914, she went to Baylor University and thence to California to earn a Masters in Speech and Drama at UCLA. Considering the times and the status of women, this was no mean feat. She made a career of portraying another strong woman as Ramona in The Ramona Pageant, a romantic melodrama of the Califorinio era. In Hawaii she continued to appear onstage in roles as diverse as Medea and Emily Dickinson. Her tandem work with Bren was expertly crafted. Bren had an impish, earthy quality, coming across like an Irish Seanachie, and Lucille was his Faery Queen.
Lucille approached me about working on the story she called A Dish of Lime-Vanilla Ice. The confection represents a taste for the extraordinary and adventure. In it, young Bill Forrester is befriended by Helen Loomis, age 95. During visits over tea, Helen takes Bill on virtual excursions to the exotic places she visited in her youth. The storytelling sweeps him away. 
I loved my afternoons with Lucille. When I learned recently of her death last October, I was saddened; not only at the loss of her, but at the lost years since I last saw her. Yet I do not grieve for her. She showed us the way to live life fully. With her second husband, Richard Koproske, she spent a joyous time traveling, dancing, laughing, and befriending everyone. She outlived Richard as she outlived Bren, and I daresay, she out-lived many of us.
In the story we shared, Bill was a newspaper man, a reporter. Through her character, Lucille showed me that telling a story is more than giving a report. The true storyteller gives an experience, and experience endures in the heart longer than any report. Just so, Lucille endures in the hearts of all who knew her and were drawn to experience storyland by her enchantment.