With apologies to Mark Twain, the rumours of the death of storytelling have been greatly exaggerated. They may have changed, says master storyteller Ivan E Coyote, but they certainly are not dead.
“I’m tired of people saying that storytelling is somehow dead,” said Coyote as she prepares to present her show You Are Here with musician Rae Spoon at the Surrey Arts Centre on February 10, 2012. “Not only is it not dead, it is so important to human interaction.”
While some may consider Coyote herself a traditional storyteller, she is not so bold as to suggest that the genre hasn’t changed with the times.
“Facebook is storytelling. Twitter is just tiny 140 character stories,” she said. “I have never bought into this idea story telling is done a certain way. Storytelling and storytellers are innovating and incorporating new media and new mediums all the time.”
Even in her show You Are Here, Coyote has taken traditional storytelling adding multi-media elements such as video, photographs and even music with the help of long-time collaborator Rae Spoon. And while that relationship continues to thrive, much like the changes in storytelling, it too has evolved over the years.
“Our work still fits together even though our own work has morphed over the years,” said Coyote. “Even when they [Spoon prefers to be referred to by the pronoun they] moved from their bluegrass and country roots to an electronica sound, it still works”.
Created in 2007, You Are Here remains one of Coyote’s most loved shows not only because it marks her first collaboration with Spoon but because of its personal connection to Coyote’s now deceased grandmother who makes an appearance on video during the show.
“We really do conjure her up in the room,” said an obviously emotional Coyote as she talked lovingly about her relationship with her Grandmother and how she, along with the other members of her family that she refers to as “Irish-Catholic-Yukon-bullshit-artists”, helped put her on the path of storyteller.
You Are Here is also Coyote and Rae’s first attempt at a straight show, or as straight she says as two queer artists like them could be. “It is who we are. You can take the queer out of the show but you can’t take the queer out of the show,” she laughed.
Despite gathering some fame, Coyote remains steadfastly modest, pointing out that if we were to hang out at her family’s kitchen table we would quickly realize that she isn’t the best. It is in this comparison to others in her family that her life-long quest to tell that perfect story is genuine.
“I am always searching, never perfecting, never stopping and on a constantly changing quest to tell the perfect story, at the perfect moment for a particular audience,” said Coyote.
While admitting that she hopes she will never actually tell that perfect story for fear it means an end, Coyote does hope each time to at least get close enough to that perfection to feel the audience being moved.
But whether Coyote reaches near perfection in this upcoming presentation of You Are Here, or perhaps with the new show the duo is working on called Gender Failure, Coyote and Rae are proof positive that while there may be traditions around storytelling, those traditions are constantly changing.
You Are Here: Ivan E. Coyote and Rae Spoon
Surrey Arts Centre Studio Theatre
10 February 2011 @ 8pm
Ivan E. Coyote’s performances are funny, poignant, and moving … as comfortable as an evening with a good friend. Settle in as Coyote paints a picture of one family’s history against a backdrop of images of the Yukon in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Together with musician Rae Spoon, these talented artists present a beautiful multi-media performance that unthaws sixty years of stories frozen into the permafrost, with all the warmth and familiarity that makes Coyote’s work so appealing.