Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Licence to Kamishibai!

It's one of those things that I never knew I wanted, indeed needed, but when it was issued to me tonight

something clicked - it is just the thing that I have been waiting for.

I was out west at Dinjerra Primary School in Braybrook, where Lachlann Carter of Pigeons literary literacy projects has been working with kids from prep to Grade 2 over the past school term. About a month ago I went over and did a couple of kamishibai sessions, including a performance and a workshop, and it must have got them really fired up, because when I got there tonight, there were dozens of black-painted cardboard butai (kamishibai stages), with exquisite pictures within them. Tonight we were celebrating the premiere of films of the children performing their stories. There was a red carpet.  There was popcorn.  It was really very exciting.  Very very exciting And very beautiful.


Boy I'm glad that I (along with 60 Dinjerrah students) now have that licence.  It makes me breathe easier about performing the 'Snail climbs Fuji' story at last week's Graphic Novels! Melbourne! fundraiser.

The above picture, taken by Pigeons' Jenna Williams - shows the title of the kamishibai which in toto reads (in English)

Slowly slowly climb
Mount Fuji

Sounds great in Japanese though.  It's a haiku by the great poet Issa, a.k.a 'Cup of Tea'

So there was that one, and a couple of weeks before that, I was up at the Woodend library as part of the Woodend Winter Arts Festival and the cartoonist and artist Trace Balla took those shots of me performing there:

This is from my kamishibai, 'A Box of Stories', set in Tokyo in 1931.  It's a kamishibai about kamishibai. Is that going a bit far?  Perhaps.

But blimey.  I'm glad I have that licence, now.  Really glad. Thank you, Dinjerra and Pigeons!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What's Japanese for MONGREL?

Above, our Tokyo correspondent, English teacher, and dem fine cartoonist J M Schmidt peruses MONGREL 4 at the station. His comics novels* Egg Story (currently being translated into Esperanto!), Eating Steve and The Sixsmiths (this last with writer Jason Franks) are all great books, and recommended for your reading eyes.

Seeing a MONGREL being read in this, the emblematic illustration of the ubiquity of manga culture in Japan ( 'In Japan, people read comics On The Trains! Really!') is highly delightful to me.

See? No-one's staring at the comics-reading gaijin like he's out of his mind or anything.  I have written an introduction to JM's collection of hilarious shorter comics stories, 'All You Bastards Can Go Jump Off a Bridge', which will be published by Milk Shadow Books later this year.

Sugoi.  Domo arigato gozaimasu, Schmidt JM!

*a new and entirely satisfactory way of referring to 'graphic novels', invented (I think) by my friend Anne Radvansky last night

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Nun's Priest's Kamishibai

So, a month ago, on May 6 2012, as part of the Williamstown Literary Festival, a group calling ourselves the 'Canterbury Tales Book Club Project' put on an afternoon of performance, song, dance and talk about Geoffrey Chaucer's great bunch of stories written in Middle English at the end of the 1300s.  Above, pre-show, Jackie Kerin (the owner of the kamishibike) and I work out how it's all going to get set up for me to do my bit after the interval. Jackie performed a hilarious 'Pardoner's Tale' in the first half. Jackie also took all of the photos in this blog post - except, of course, this one!

Above, Catherine Ryan, in a wimple of her own design, gives us the 'Canterbury 101' talk.

Author Claire Saxby, our Middle English MC.

Simon Leverton on guitar was the musical director (a lot of bawdiness going down in them thar lyrics it must be said) and behind him?  Yes, absolutely.  Morris dancers.  They got bells that jingle jangle.

This was the first time I'd ever done the kamishibai box + simultaneous projection, and apparently it worked pretty well.  I must say I'd like to see it myself, to be sure.   For my part I had adapted 'The Nun's Priest's Tale', which I studied way back in the Middle Ages of 1984, taught by my beloved HSC English Literature teacher, Marisa Spiller.

Above, my first image of the tale, depicting the 'narwe cottage' in which lives the widow who owns the rooster

called ('cleped') Chaunticleer.  'He was a real cock', as I say in my translation. And of course if there's chickens then there's gotta be a

fox.  Let me hasten to add, it all works out okay, but there's some tense moments along the way, ohhh yes.


It's good to have another story in my kamishibai repertoire, and I'm thinking that I will deliver the 'G' rated version of the tale this Saturday 9 June up at Woodend library where I am giving a kamishibai storytelling session as part of the Woodend Winter Arts Festival.

After me came Daniel O'Connell, with a filthy, funny version of the Miller's Tale.  Brilliant.

Highlights of the afternoon for me were certainly the other performances, and also seeing Robin Grove, a remarkable English Literature lecturer (more like 'inspirer') from my university days, and meeting Ted Smith, the builder of the beautiful kamishibai box that I borrow off Jackie whenever I need to tell 'paper theatre' stories.