Telling the Story... THE GRAPES OF WRATH

One of the new elements to this year's festival that we're most excited about is the appearance of Carol Birch, one of the world's foremost storytellers. Carol will be appearing in the Chapel at Stephens College on Saturday, April 22, at 11.45, to perform her celebrated retelling of John Steinbeck's seminal novel, The Grapes of Wrath.

We asked Carol to write something to introduce her upcoming performance to Unbound guests. It's a fascinating insight to the work that gets done when "translating" the written word into the oral tradition. Here's Carol:

"An UNBOUND BOOK  is a glorious image for what I hope listeners experience as they listen to me tell two chapters from John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. I seek material that can be interpreted conversationally—material suitable to the directness, confidentiality, and simplicity experienced when we gather to tell one another important stories in semidarkness. Telling a literary piece is not the same as reading or reciting it, though the story remains mostly as Steinbeck wrote it. While I edit lines, I rarely add words. My goals are to build a bridge into the story with an introduction and then communicate his text, language, and style.

Adaptations occur when I:

·       differentiate characters more easily by placing taglines like “He said,” at the beginning of a quote, instead of halfway through or at the end of it;

·       indicate characters vocally, which allows me to communicate “she said” and/or “he said sadly” effectively without actually saying those words;

·       replace words like “she pointed” with a simple gesture;

·       utilize a range of facial and physical cues to communicate more complex emotions like “disappointment overwhelmed him”;

·       repeat a word or line for emphasis, as people naturally do in conversation;

·       edit because of time or audience constraints; and finally,

·       interact with listeners during a performance.

Experience tells me listeners seek out books from which they’ve heard sections. Eyes and ears “read” differently; ears and eyes “hear” differently. When audiences hear language lifted off the page, it can enhance their experience of that literature.