Thomas Doty – Storyteller


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Yeats and Company

I have lately been rereading favorite passages of Yeats, Lady Gregory, Synge, Bashō, Zeami, de Angulo -- mostly tidbits that thoughtfully saunter through my imaginative world of Old Time storytelling.

Damn! Yeats is good. When he writes about his mythic approach to staging plays at Dublin's Abbey Theatre in 1901 -- realistic parlor stuff was popular at the time in London and this disgusted him -- or how Shakespeare's plays at Stratford might be better staged if they got rid of the realistic, elaborately painted scenery and hung a simple purple curtain as a backdrop that, partnered with the skills of the best actors, would open wider the imagination and encourage the audience to mentally dance with mythic archetypes they are hardwired to emotionally respond to, he might be writing about masked Northwest Coast dance dramas of a thousand years ago, or stylized movements and subtle gestures described in Zeami's treatise on Nō Theatre in the 1400s. Or the ancient art of native storytelling, at its universal best before Columbus, and still at its best when done by modern masters who discovered that in certain out-of-the-way places, Mother Landscape remembers the stories and the best way to share them, and passes those skills to those who hang out with her and take the time to listen.

Here is my mantra of the day, from Yeats: "Let us go forth, the tellers of tales, and seize whatever prey the heart long for, and have no fear. Everything exists, everything is true, and the earth is only a little dust under our feet."