As easy as falling off a cliff… (An American Storyteller on Tour in Europe – part 2 of 3)

Part Two – Leaping

Mark Binder and Devi Lockwood

Me and Devi Lockwood

I wasn’t even through airport security when I began telling my first story. Heather had dropped me at Logan, gave me a kiss, and sped off. I had booked my travel and lodging and bought a brand new Google phone with directions and contacts and addresses. Suddenly there was Devi Lockwood, a young blogging journalist off to Morocco for a climate change summit. She had a Sony digital recorder and a furry boom microphone that she stuck in my face. I’m still waiting for it to pop up on her website.

But she was an American. Would they “get” my work in Europe? That was the question.

I’m always looking for challenges. I’m always writing new stories and polishing old ones. But I’ve always known my audiences. They were like me—maybe a bit richer or poorer, blacker or whiter—but American.

When I pitch myself as a storyteller, I claim, “Stories connect people from any background—they just work.”

Now I was going to find out if I was full of it.

Every week Tony Cranston has a group of students from a local primary school who trek to the Bexley library for an afternoon of storytelling. He plopped me into it and I kicked off with Jack and the Beanstalk.

Tony and me outside the Bexley Library

Turns out that kids everywhere are pretty much the same. Yes, they knew the story, but nobody had ever “told” it to them. They listened, laughed, participated and had tons of questions. That Friday evening many of them were back at the library with their parents for an hour-long multigenerational program that felt solid. All my stories and most of my cultural references seemed to get through the English/American language barrier.

London? Check.

Paris worried still me. My sponsor from the American School, Filipa Pavic, met me outside a Starbucks in Paris. (No, I said, I can’t buy a coffee from Starbucks in France!) On the commuter rail ride to the school she told me that the students were six through eighth graders, whose parents worked for American or multinational corporations. They spoke English perfectly, were sophisticated and smart.

Yes, I saw my son, Max

Swell. Much of my humor is lowbrow and crass. Give me a raucous inner-city school and I’ll keep them enthralled, but sophistication takes wit and memorization, which are two of my weakest attributes.

The auditorium filled up and I kicked off with “TV Deprogrammer” a semi-improvised story about the battle between an old fart and technologically advanced whiz kid. The young people cheered, listened, and asked questions. Whew!

To be continued

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