Oberlin Blogs

Woman who fell from the sky

September 29, 2008

Aries Indenbaum ’09

Letter from Ms. C, teacher at Prospect Elementary School:

You were the hit of the day! As you could tell from their behavior, my students were enthralled, and your creation story fit perfectly with our studies.

Thank you so much,

On Friday, Liz and I went down to two fourth grade classes and told Native American creation myths, to finish up one of their social studies units. I came a tad early and saw them in reading lab. Watching twelve children reading novels made all my sappy places get a bit more gooey.

Once class started, I told the "Woman Who Fell From the Sky," an Iroquois story about how the earth was built off of a Turtle's back. The kids really liked it: the boss fight with Mosquito, any form of domestic violence, happy cows being butchered.... I forgot how amazingly morbid children are. Liz and I had worried about the distracted nature of children and the fairly static form of tale-telling (one person, talking, go). But they seemed to get into it, to understand the brother's fight and the mother's frustration. At the end, they asked for another ("Encore! Encore means more!" one of them shouted), so I told them the Ash Lad story. It was nice to always have something ready, off-the-cuff. It makes me feel all... professional.

Storytelling has been the pillar of my college experience. I took the Storytelling ExCo my first semester, and it opened me up. I told things to my exco classmates that I didn't tell anyone else. Storytelling Class was performance on the outside and therapy on the inside; it was comedy and tragedy. In a tiny, overheated room in Wilder, we told scary, cultural and personal stories.

And one day, I had this conversation with Liz:
Liz: Aries! Do you know if someone will be teaching the Storytelling Exco this semester?
Aries: No, I don't think anyone is...
Liz: How about us!
Aries: How about... yeah!
Liz: Yeah!
Aries: Yeah!

Then, we wrote a syllabus, got our faculty recommendations, interviewed, got a booth at the exco fair, chose our students, registered them... and had a good class, each Thursday from 8:00 until 10:30.

When Liz and I taught the Exco, it made us into very close friends. We didn't know each other that well at the start- Liz was the girl who baked amazing brownies and laughed like a giant. We had had possibly one real conversation, tops. Then, we saw each other at our best- doing the thing we cared about most. I know I'd be missing something if I hadn't taught with her.


After students take the exco, most of them want to keep hearing and learning. So, Liz started a club, with a lot of help and support from Adam and Amanda. We meet in Liz's living room every Sunday and tell stories, eat cookies. Liz lives off-campus this year, so we've got a lot of space to stretch our legs out. We also do a radio show on WOBC: "Story Hour with the Sisters Grim!". 2:00 PM on Tuesdays, if you want to listen in (wobc.org).

For this Sunday's Storytelling Club, Liz gathered information about professional storytellers. Apparently, you can live on it. I would love that. I would so, so love that. The national conference is this weekend, so no go for now, but maybe next year. This is a performance style I really adore, that works in all of the things I focus on: stories! theater! public speaking! improv! fancy word play! rhetoric!


Next semester, I don't want to do a Senior Reading, but a Senior Recital- an hour of stories.

"You're gonna be damn tired at the end," Liz said, who loved long-form epics. "But it'll be great."

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