Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Synchronisity!

A few years ago I had a "First Night" storytelling event where I wanted to tell not just any story but at least one story specifically related to our current New Year's Eve. I had never recalled seeing anything like that and was pretty sure I wouldn't find something old and traditional considering the relative "newness" of this focus on January 1st being the New Year. Still I went in search- the old fashioned way!!
Thinking to myself that perhaps I would find the right story if I let my "fingers do the walking," I went over to my bookcase of collections of traditional tales. Ran my fingers over the volumes I had perused so many times, finally lingering over "A Thorn in the King's Foot: Scottish Traveling Tales." I pulled out the book, closed my eyes and opened the book to the story "Auld Father Time and the Henwife" the only traditional New Year's tale I have seen before and since! In it Father Time grows younger and younger till at last he is a baby! Truly a New Year's story with the archetypes we associate with the New Year. The old man and the baby.

Carl Jung said, "The greatest number of spontaneous synchronistic phenomena I have observed have a direct connection with an archetype."

See related previous post on "Soul and Old Wooden Spoons"

Soul and Old Wooden Spoons

At one of his wonderful presentations on poetry and the inner life, Robert Bly once said, "Soul resides in old wooden spoons." And doesn't it though! Soul, character, life, years of being stirred of being handled. As a storyteller in the internet age I say, "Soul resides in books," and I want to encourage tellers to still look for stories there. Grow their collections- don't give up that path. When we search for our stories via internet or through a storytelling email group we are asking for the stories in order to fulfill a topic or a need. Already we have prepared the wrapping, the binding that may keep the story from saying what it truly would like to say to us. In that way, what we find may not give us what we need, even though it is a need-based search! 'I need a story that teaches violence prevention.' or 'I need a story that I can use from the Chinese culture.' The search then takes place with that lens in mind and on internet sites where the stories are splayed and displayed and digitally categorized. If you are lucky, the stories will still have some earth clinging to them, there will be notes about the sources and more variations you can track down. But I still believe in looking for stories over decades, 'book-hunting' in barns, cast-off collections at yard sales and finding stories in random odd places. Turning them over in the hand and then the mind and wondering what they might hold. What they are saying...who warmed them with their breath over time? "Soul Resides in Books."

See my related blog- New Year Synchronicity

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Halloween on the USS Constitution!

Had shows at Boston museums this weekend, visiting them for the first time. On the USS Constitution, families scrambled down tiny stairs to the bottom deck (not seen in this photo!) for my Halloween stories where the ceilings were so low I kept catching my witches hat on the beams. Answer: The witch becomes ever more and more stooped!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

a golden thread....

My Golden Thread workshops will be drawing on what I have learned in over thirty years of experience working with traditional stories, bringing them to life for a variety of audiences. In the course of this work I've studied a variety of writers and thinkers. Historians of religion, anthropologists, Jungian scholars and whenever possible listening to the voices of the indigenous- those who grew up in the old ways.

By now my approach to traditional tales is deeply intuitive. When I enter a sacred area, like that of myth, I truly feel I am entering a very particular world with certain rules and possibilities of expression. The same is true with fairy tales, animal fables and legends each have their own rules and their secrets are best unlocked by following a certain path.  Their classifications are important only so much as they are sign posts pointing the way to the proper approach. When you revive a fairy tale you do not treat it in the same way as a myth. You would not approach a queen in the same way as a shepherdess!

Now I want to help others discover the unbelievable depth that can be found in these old tales- thus this series of workshops called The Golden Thread: Finding Meaning in Traditional Tales. Each workshop series focuses on a different kind of traditional tale. The first journeys have been into the landscape of fairy tales. To deepen the work with fairy tales I have taken cues from dream analysis, amplification of symbols, Michael Chekov's gestural work and cultural explorations. The tellings that have resulted from the classes so far has been extraordinary.
The newest version of the workshop will begin this October 7th, 2015 on Wednesday evenings. The Golden Thread: Finding Meaning in Traditional Tales: Fairy tales

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


My teacher and inspiration was the late Zbigniew Cynkutis, one of the founding members of the ground-breaking Polish Laboratory Theatre. He once said, "We train so that when the moment arises we can find something new instead of following the path of what we know already." 
Training has always been such an important part of my growth as an artist. I believe it is essential to continue to find ways to deepen and further the craft.

In my work on traditional tales, I am doing extensive reading on fairytales. Iona and Peter Opie's "The Classic Fairytales" is my book of choice right now. This book contains "the core of Fairytale literature." The stories within are the carefully researched and hard to find first versions of these tales. This packed volume contains extensive background not only on each tale but on the development of the fairytale itself. All of this is in preparation for my upcoming workshop in re-telling a fairytale, "The Golden Thread: finding meaning in traditional tales," a five evenings series beginning October 7th at Dancing Tree Storytelling Workshop in Needham, MA

On August 29th and 30th I will be taking an intensive two-day workshop in the Roy Hart Vocal Work. It is always a special treat to continue to learn, explore and, in this case, revisit techniques and challenges you have encountered in the past. Link teaching with learning. They go hand in hand.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Flowers and Presence

While working on my newest performance: The Language of Flowers* I spent hours pouring over volumes of myths and folktales about flowers that tell of their origins and their meaning. The work sensitized me to the unique qualities of each flowering plant. Because they were created to reflect the true essence of each plant, myths of origin in particular opened up the doors of perception. Now when I see these flowers, the stories surround them like an ethereal fragrance helping me to go deeper into the experience of each plant.

I've begun my own new custom of greeting the day by looking closely at flowers and honoring their delicate presence. Bringing them in the house to be with me when I work allows me to let them companion me through the day- a lovely contemplation. Today the delicate white spray of the cilantro and yesterday spicy, sweet geranium blossoms.

* The performance title refers to the Victorian custom of endowing every flower with a specific meaning. Daisies-innocence, Red Rose- passionate love etc.., Deciphering a bouquet using one of the many "Language of Flowers" booklets in circulation revealed the hidden messages.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Meeting the cultural representative of the Kurdistan Regional Governmnet

Tom Megan, Najat Abdullah and Diane Edgecomb
Had a wonderful meeting with Najat Abdullah - cultural representative for the Kurdistan Regional Government in the U.S. when I was in Washington DC this week. He is 100% behind the Kurdish story collection project. Now to find other groups and other support. My vision is a pan-Kurdish story collecting effort with an internet based platform to upload videos, curated by Kurdish scholars from the four different dialects. Loved the moment when I said to Najat: "I have a crazy idea." and he responded, "I love crazy ideas, t hat is the way to dream big!"

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

In the Groves- our annual Summer Solstice journey is around the corner

Nature is so alive at this time of year not just with the emergence of butterflies but with the return of the birds - trees budding - people out n about! It's just heavenly!!

We celebrate this time of natural beauty with an annual outdoor performance event that weaves through the groves of Boston's only tree sanctuary, the Arnold Arboretum.

The performance, called "IN THE GROVES,"  is an evocative story and music journey taking place on June 19th and June 20th, the time of the Summer Solstice. To make the event truly special we limit our audience size to only thirty.

Hope to see you there.... Diane

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


This spring I had the fortune of witnessing an emergence, or rather seeing the result of one, the chrysallis I had sheltered all winter was split open at the top and a small black swallowtail butterfly was gently fanning its wings perched on the screened windows of my back porch.

I had seen the female black swallowtail last August as it lingered by my fennel plant- not knowing why it was on fennel that had no blossoms I did some research and realized fennel (along with parsley and dill) is one of the host plants to the caterpillars. Much later - after keeping an eye out for it- the caterpillar was large enough to recognize and I took it in to offer it what protection and hospitality I could.
This youngster would eat only fennel. Fennel and fennel and more fennel. Raising itself up on its hind legs it guided the delicate, anise scented fronds to its mouth.

Finally late in the fall it went into pupae state emerging on Sunday, May 10th to my surprise and delight. Since then I have seen it twice in my backyard checking out the yard and hopefully noticing that, earlier than ever before, I have planted large fennel plants hoping for another guest this year. Guess you could say I don't have a butterfly garden I have one for caterpillars.

Here is a short video of the black swallowtail one day old on the back porch before I set it free.

Holding the just emerged black swallowtail.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Storying the Landscape

In ancient times a story, a place and a time of year walked hand in hand. Now those of us who are tradition tellers need to bring that possibility to the landscapes that surround us. I call this work Living Myth Events.

When working on a Living Myth Event I try to match not just a location but a time of year. This is a tool of the ancients- not just where but when. I choose a time of year when a traditional celebration was held. Often story has already played a part.

So far I have held three major Living Myth events:

Millennium LabyrinTh with its elements of the Theseus myth. In this event twin Ariadnes guided subway commuters inside the Boston MBTA safely into the Millennium; In the Groves an annual event at the Summer Solstice with collaborator harper Margot Chamberlain in which tree myths and songs celebrate the large tree sanctuary of Arnold Arboretum; and now Flora's Holiday at Tower Hill Botanic Garden celebrating the first days of May and flowers.

Don't forget what you are storying! In this case our walking singing May Day journey focuses is on vast areas filled with unusual Flowers.

Flora's Holiday!
Where: Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA truly a springtime paradise of blossoms.
When: May 1st and 2nd the highlight of Flora's ancient festival.
What: Flower myths, legends and songs.

Join Us!

Monday, March 2, 2015


I've been so fortunate to be invited to exchange stories with master storyteller Jay O'Callahan on a regular basis. I meet with him at 7:30 AM - that's when he begins rehearsal! Sometimes he's been for an ocean swim before we meet! Because of his great gifts he is often asked to commemorate occasions with a story and he was working on one when last we met. The short poetic celebrations of people he creates often involve rhyme and it inspired me to write one for an upcoming event for Gerry Wright's 80th birthday (Gerry is a well know conservationist and social justice advocate who is also my neighbor!) I was amazed at how rhyming helped bring out what I wanted to say in an unusual way and made it Sparkle. Here's what I wrote about my 'cross the street' encounters with Gerry. Someone we also affectionately call "The Prophet." Gerry always speaks in cryptic phrases that you think you should understand! The photo is of him portraying Frederick Law Olmstead in his one person show.

Gerry as Olmstead

When Gerry is your Neighbor

Gerry calls out:
“Let’s meet across the river!”
The "river" is our street.
We meet on an embankment.
No subject too discreet.

"That’s It! That’s It! That’s IT!" he cries!
Though what “it” is you can’t surmise,
For Gerry Wright is more than wise
Esoteric truth -no compromise!
Yes, food for thought that is your prize
When Gerry is your neighbor.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Invisible Worlds

I think often of an encounter I had several years ago in Poland. I was sitting at a well-worn kitchen table with an anthropologist whose work was in the field with different African tribes. When he heard I was a storyteller he lit up. "It's good that you still exist!" he said. "You bring us to the invisible worlds."

'WORLDS,' he said. Not just ONE invisible world. It did me good to hear this because when working with different types of stories I have seen that they have different qualities, rules and access points. FAIRYTALES- share their boundary with DREAMS, the landscape of our nights. Both of them utilize archetypal symbols, bizarre juxtapositions with a logic all their own and -held on high- the banner of the life and death struggle of the soul to be born.  MYTHS- remain rooted in the cultures that created them. They receive their stamp of authenticity from those people and are tethered to the "in the beginning time" of the world, with its bold characters that leave an imprint on all that we see. When we tell a PERSONAL STORY, we bring on our breath an invisible world peopled by the ghosts of our MEMORIES. And for a completely ORIGINAL TALE storytellers must build their own invisible habitation from whatever bits and scraps they can find until it is TRUE and the story feels JUST RIGHT.

INVISIBLE WORLDS.... Yes it is a storyteller's work to source them and we are in competition with a lot of modern day imposters. Video games have taken these potent archaic symbols and harnessed them to a Sisyphean narrative of endlessly repeating encounters with no real transformation possible. Disney cannot put us in touch with the invisible worlds. Everything it presents is completely visualized and encoded in two dimensional film, forever colorized and controlled.

Fortunately, storytellers do not have the same aim as the entertainment world. For us it is not even a matter of trying to make the unseen SEEN, it is about making it PRESENT and palpable in the space. We bring the old stories not to forget ourselves or to make our audience forget where they are, but to remember there are other worlds beyond.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Circles in the Water....

Zbyszek Cynkutis* made a wonderful analogy to the energy that can manifest in artistic work: dropping stones into the water and the rings arise.

"You may think that the most interesting moment is when the stone is thrown. Powerful, yes, but perhaps not the most interesting. The most interesting is the circles that arise from this action - this energy creating more energy moving outward." Cynkutis, 1984

Although producers are often hoping for an easily graspable sound bite of who you are, I choose my projects not to clarify an image of myself but to expand star-shaped as far as is possible. So I began and so I continue: The Kurdish Storytelling Project, Living Myth Events, Millennium Labyrinth, Storying a Landscape, Storytelling and the Art of Play, Cynkutis Book Project.... 

I am looking to find not just skipping stones, but stones with a love of the depths that can bring expanding circles. I say this as much to state it as to encourage myself forward. This is not a clear path to monetary success and its value has to be sourced again and again.

We choose what to support - and what we feel will create rings - create energy. Give your deepest dreams trajectory - let the circles begin.

* I studied with Zbigniew Cynkutis, an actor with the Polish Laboratory Theater of Poland, in 1986. I have been working on a writing about his work and approach for many years. I call it "Cynkutis Book Project" it has accompanied me on my journey to create an original piece in this way entitled: RESTRAINTS. I was aided in the development of this piece by his widow and collaborator. My dear friend Jolanta Cynkutis. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

La Vie En Rose

I love to sing and this moment was captured at dinner with friends during the December 2014 holidays. No picture, no one wanted a camera to spoil the moment. There is just a discreet close-up of the holiday tablecloth as I sing "La Vie En Rose" accompanied by my husband Tom Megan on accordion.

A brief aside: We visited Edith Piaf's grave in Paris several years ago on exactly the same day- December 27th! Among the famous graves at the Pere La Chaise cemetery in Paris were Jim Morrison's, Oscar Wilde's and Edith Piaf's. To Jim Morrison's grave, people brought candles and they were burning brightly, Oscar Wilde's large and ornate grave was adorned with the heavily lipsticked kisses of hundred's of admirers and on the "little swallow", Edith Piaf's, grave were left long stemmed roses.