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Kim McCann’s Storytelling Arts Debut Burnishes Our Memories

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Kim McCann’s Storytelling Arts Debut Burnishes Our Memories

In the photo: Frank Basile;  Kim McCann, winner of the 2019 Frank Basile Emerging Stories Fellowship; Ellen Munds, Executive Director of Storytelling Arts of Indiana; and Sally Perkins, storyteller and MC for the premiere.    Photo by Katrina Basile. 

Kim McCann piled us into the back seat of the family car alongside herself and her sister, squeezed smack in the middle so as to peer through the slice of space between her mother and father in the front seat. We’re at one with the approaching landscape—and traffic. 

We’re really in our seats at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center on Nov. 3, 2019, but such is the power of story that we can transcend time and space and be within the words.  

From the barebones sketch of all the family in “The Prologue” we know who will be rushing out to greet us in Rhodes Point. when we spill out among the “stately junipers and pines” where Great Aunt Juddie’s “flamboyantly decorated double-wide trailer” year after year offered up a special space of adventures and possibilities and the love and warmth and knowingness that comes from an adult who takes us seriously, talks to us as worthy beings at a very young age. But for now, ten minutes into the narrative, it’s clicking off the check points northward to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. 

At this point, every one of us, in the audience, and now you reading the opening paragraphs on a small screen, have found at least one connecting link within your own lives. The next fifty minutes have the same power—we are part of a different family, in a different car, on a different route, paying loving homage to a different particular person—but all elements are kin to this tale spinning from Kim McCann's memories. 

“We are all base spirits, infused over time by people, experiences, and the people that intoxicate us the most,” says McCann. “These are the stories, characters, and influences that deserve to be served, preserved, and shared."

When she mines her memories, she illuminates one of ours. When she describes her foibles, we can top them with ours. When she’s astonished by an impossibility, we smirk at our own innocence and goofy response. “How can that be?!”

Audience members shared wth me their connecting links, and the warmth of being reminded. Everyone has a story worth sharing; for most of us it’s off stage. For McCann the stage is a natural segue from “something she’s been doing her whole life—entertaining and engaging people with personal recollections of her life and experiences.”

“Gin Girl” is a story worth re-hearing. A debut on the big stage is daunting. Not all the elements are yet perfected by McCann. But it is the beginning of a career for another Indiana-based storyteller. The Frank Basile Emerging Stories Fellowship launched in 2000 to “encourage and recognize the talent and skill of Indiana storytellers.”  

The printed program shares this biographical sketch of McCann:

“If you're a fan of our Indy Story Slams, and we hope you are, you're probably familiar with Kim McCann. She's an interpreter and program developer at Conner Prairie and has performed a few one-woman shows at IndyFringe Festivals in recent years.

“After winning the first two story slams of 2018, we asked her to open for national storyteller Vicki Juditz in one of our regular season shows. McCann was a pro, sharing a story about a young man she used to mentor whom she wasn't able to save from danger. It was a chilling, memorable story.”

After the program, I asked Frank Basile if he could share any transformative experiences from nearly two decades of the Emerging Stories Series, and maybe touch on how the emerging storyteller initiative has been reshaped over its tenure. O course, we always want to learn what most gives philanthropist/arts advocate Frank  Basile joy for having stepped forward. Here’s the fulsome email reply from Frank Basile: 

“My personal mission has always been to assist people in using their basic talent and their time to achieve their potential and to become all they could in line with their dreams, whether they want to be a storyteller, engineer, doctor, landscaper, whatever, especially those who need help.  Over the years that became mainly focused on the arts.  For many years my main vehicles for doing this were my professional motivational speaking and writing of articles and books and, in later years, through my work with not-for-profit organizations and my philanthropy. 

“It started with the Outreach program for the Art Center, then the FEAT (Festival of Emerging American Theatre) for the Phoenix, the Emerging Stories Program for Storytelling Arts and so on.  Ellen understood my mission and was creative and proactive in designing a program similar to FEAT, which she proposed to me in 1999 and, of course, it resonated with me.  I might mention that Ellen later designed a similar program called “If these walls could tell” which we [Frank and Katrina] also sponsor and which is presented annually at the Indiana Landmarks Center. 

“My satisfaction has been in seeing my mission accomplished through providing the opportunity for the selected Indiana storyteller to develop a new story and present it at the History Center.  This enables them to gain experience (honing their skills), get visibility, and enhance their resume.

“I believe in the power of storytelling to entertain and, at its best, to help to change people’s lives.  I have used storytelling in my motivational speaking for nearly 50 years.  During my 20 years of writing a weekly column for the IBJ, many of my articles through the years related to the value of storytelling in business and personal life. It thrills me to see people’s reactions during a performance and then talk with people after.  I always stay to the very end of the reception after each program.  

“The format of the ES program has remained about the same through the years, though some administrative details have changed. Over the years we reduced the number of fellowship winners from 2 to 1 to focus more time and resources on one teller.  Also, in about the second year, I decided to meet with the winner/winners for breakfast the morning of their performance to get to know them better.  I also made it a habit to send them a note right after their performance to sincerely thank and congratulate them. 

“Another program that suits my mission is the Basile Center for Art, Design and Public Life at Herron which enables students to get commissioned work for companies, individuals or government entities while in school, to provide them with experience, money and a resume enhancer.  Through the years I have also been responsible for securing many major projects for the students.  They work under the supervision of an experienced professor, namely, Greg Hull.” 

 Up next for Storytelling Arts:

As I Recall Storytelling Guild, Nov. 20, 2-4 p.m., College Ave. Branch of Indianapolis Public Library; free.

Indy Story Slam: Theme ‘Food Glorious Food’; Nov. 20, 7-8:30 p.m. Garfield Park Arts Center, $10.

Aunt Lily and Other Delightfully Perverse Stories” told by Jennifer Munro, Dec. 7, 7-9:00 p.m., Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center. $20, $25 at the door, $15 students with valid ID

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