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Monday, Dec. 1, 2008

Telling Stories

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In his 1936 essay on the work of Russian author Nikolai Leskov, Walter Benjamin spoke of the gradual demise of the storytelling tradition. According to Benjamin, somewhere between the widespread circulation of the novel and the rise of modern warfare, man's "ability to exchange experience" had greatly eroded.

Benjamin showed uncanny foresight for the circumstances facing us today, where the unaccountable hurry we find ourselves in precludes the luxury of sitting down and listening to a good yarn. However, an event in early December organized by Peter Woods offers an opportunity to do just that. The founder of FTAM, a DIY experimental arts organization, is hosting "Told: A Night of Storytelling" on Dec. 6 at the Borg Ward (823 W. National Ave.). A circle of storytellers that includes musicians, performers, writers and activists will gather to share tales. Among them will be Insurgent Theatre co-founders Rex Winsome and Tracy Doyle, guitarist for Mahogany Throttle and Sling Dave White, and Shepherd Express theater critic Russ Bickerstaff.

"The setup for the evening is about as open-ended as I could manage," says Woods, who will also share stories over the course of the evening. "It is up to the storytellers to decide what to do… A theme might emerge, but it might not."

Although Woods has organized a number of events promoting experimental music and performance, this is his first storytelling event. "It's an idea that's been brewing in my head for a while… hopefully it translates," Woods says.

Doors open at 7 p.m. for "A Night of Storytelling." Tickets cost $5, with proceeds benefiting FTAM and the Borg Ward.

Also this week, Woodland Pattern hosts a poetry workshop that focuses on three repetitive forms of the sestina, pantoum and villanelle. Anyone who's tried writing in these forms will be familiar with both the exasperation and the sense of accomplishment they can excite. They often surprise in the unexpected direction they end up leading us. After studying the work of writers who employed these forms, such as Ezra Pound and Anne Waldman, participants will write their own pieces. The workshop, titled "Verbal Roundabouts: Writing with Obsessive Vocabularies," is conducted by Lawrence University professor Faith Barrett and takes place on Dec. 6, from 1 to 4 p.m. Fees cost $35 (or $30 for members) and reservations are required by calling 263-5001.