Standing on the Keebler Stage, What are We?
Joy Steiner made the arrangements. She selected a variety of
tellers, Fritz Frederick, Ambra Allgood, herself and me, for
availability and varied experience, to tell stories to Boise River
Festival 1998 audiences. We understood that all participants (local
ones, anyway) are volunteers, but at least there's that t-shirt...
Friday morning, hoping to pick up my volunteer's shirt on the way to the India exhibit, I stopped at one volunteer center, was sent to another, then was asked to talk to Julie Park on the phone. I explained that we'd received t-shirts other years. Not last year, she said - only one person (Vivian Gilbert) got a shirt while the people in the tent didn't. I asked her what was the basis for deciding who gets a shirt and who doesn't. Local storytellers aren't included on the list of performers, who have their own shirt. And performers aren't considered volunteers, so we don't qualify for one of those, either. She was put off by my persistence. They are being economical this year and she has to save her volunteer shirts for the essential people, like the ones doing clean-up, picking up trash.
"I didn't know a t-shirt was so important to you," she said, trying to dismiss me, perhaps, or humiliate me for even hoping for recognition beyond a general line in the program. I told her that if it was simply my misunderstanding, fine, but as newsletter editor I'd make certain future participants would know what (and what not) to expect. She said I was just being mean, putting something negative about the River Festival in the paper. Finally she said that one year what happened is that they gave some volunteers leftover B-shirts from a previous year. Maybe, if she had some unclaimed shirts at the end, that would satisfy us. Why, that's all that we could hope for, I said. Work with Joy on that.
So here's my thoughts on this subject, Julie. Operating from a standard
meaning of words, I originally reasoned that we local storytellers are
giving our time to perform, which makes us volunteer performers. And it
seems to me that performances on stage are essential to the entire Festival
enterprise, although I'm no fool and realize that the real purpose here is
to build a reputation and generate income for festival organizers through
fees charged to those making corporate "donations" and commercial sales.
It's "exposure" for everyone, the promise of a better reputation out of association with a high class yet free event. Performers are simply the lure, like the programming on tv that has to be a hair less exciting than the commercials that they interrupt. Also, on a personal scale, I'm ready to consider that I may be a marginal performer and less valuable than, say, a really nimble and aggressive garbage gatherer. Here's an option - have the important people go through the garbage and pull out anything recyclable to toss to the storytellers. If your clean-up crews are as good as you say, they can find something with value equivalent to our skills and time.
On the other hand, you have given me reason to consider how important that t-shirt could be. I've concluded that there are some things I just won't ever do again, not even for a t-shirt. Let's summarize where we are so far, you and I. At this point you've given me a provocative idea or two. A storyteller isn't a performer, and I didn't know that before. Neither of us apologized while we both had plenty to say (you had to ask me, twice, to let you speak) so I'd say we've given each other plenty of attitude. Still, we aren't the Festival, are we? I'll give your audiences a half hour including my new story, a warning on having an inflated sense of one's own worth. Then we can bid each other farewell. You've essentially rid yourself of a pesky and marginal so-called performer and I've freed up my calendar the last week of June. Let's call it square.