Sunday, March 16, 2008

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Narratorium Perspectives

The Recording Lobby

The Recording Room

The Gallery (Outdoor)

The Performance Space

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Narrarena

What is a narratorium? If we break it up into its two parts, “narra-“ and “-torium”, then we can assume that it is a place devoted to the art of storytelling; “narra-“ meaning a narrative or story, and “-torium” meaning an institution - a building devoted to a work or custom. I believe it’s safe to say that art’s importance is based on human interaction. Storytelling is the oldest art, as old as language itself. The original importance of the verbal story was to teach, but then that was lost since the printing press. People then thought they could learn everything from a book- a recorded story. Then there was less interest in taking care of the elderly of villages. Society really didn’t need them as a source of education, they had the library.

There are almost a hundred professional storytellers in the Portland area alone. There is a growing market of talented performers that tell stories, not exactly like an actor, but as a narrator that stays true to the original art of storytelling- to educate with themes and morals. They project their personalities verbally and physically to make a connection with the listener’s imagination to enhance the story’s purpose. The connection can be stronger than an author through a book; the human interaction is much more cohesive.

This narratorium needs to help revive the importance of storytelling. It needs to rejuvenate the close human interaction that was lost by the relationship between the author and the reader. A story is told verbally differently than through literature. The non-verbal communication is critical for the emotional connection with the story and the teller.

Everyone tells stories. When your friend asks you what happened, there needs to be some kind of story to follow. So, in a sense, everyone is a natural storyteller. However, most if not all the time, your audience is your friends and family. Your performance of the story is fluid and natural because of your comfort. What if you told a great story? What if you caught some of your friends or family members telling one of their friends your story? Eventually the story would get around, but probably not to that many people, and eventually it would die because not enough people knew the story to keep it alive. You could have kept the story alive if you went around telling strangers like a performer, but you, like most people, are too shy to tell random strangers and crowds your story.

This is the true need for a narratorium- to keep the story alive. It fulfills the need for the common shy person with a spectacular story. It would act as a machine that would receive your story, refine it with talented storytellers, and then perform the refined version of it to the public.

The average person with the great story would go slip into the back entrance where they would be greeted by a staff member at an info desk. This is where you would be assigned to a recording booth. These booths are more like small rooms to allow you and a couple friends that came with you for moral support to fit comfortably as they listen to you deliver your story.

Once the story is recorded, it is reviewed by the professional storytelling staff. They would be looking for the a few criteria. The story needs to be something that has to do with Portland in some way, as a setting or revealing something of Portland culture. The storytellers would also be looking at the quality of the story, if it reveals a phenomenon significant about being human, for example guilt or betrayal. The story really needs to be able to connect with what it means to be human. The storytellers would also look for the quality of the delivery. They want to see confidence in the teller so the story is more entertaining to watch. The storytellers would have a video editor to assist in editing the recording in order to enhance the delivery, if needed.

Once the recorded stories are pre-screened by the pro-tellers, they are then put on display in an outdoor space in the front of building, in plain site from Broadway. This outdoor space connecting with the public would allow them to watch any of the stories they want, and then vote on which one they liked the most. These stories, say ten or more, would be on display for close to a month to allow for a good number of votes.

The top two or three stories with the most votes would then go through the refinement process. To ensure that the story simply isn’t repeated by the pro-tellers and to allow them to put their creative input into the story, the pro-tellers would take one story or maybe two or three of the winning stories, and either combine them into a better story, or modify one, whatever it takes to make a great story even better. The abundant experience the pro-tellers have would definitely help to make the stories better.

The polished and well-rehearsed story would then be performed in front of an audience of 100 – 200 people. I’m picturing the performance hall of being a theater-type design with stadium seating in a semi-circle layout.

This Narratorium or Narrarena would help bring Portlanders together in their idea of what being a Portlander is all about. It will help keep stories about Portland alive, as well as, help keep people aware of the importance of storytelling- connecting with the true meaning of what it is to be human. This place would be vital for defining the culture of Portland.

Drawings of the Site

Monday, February 4, 2008

Good Old George (Intro)

I needed to go down to Chinatown today to pick up some things and meet up with an old buddy I used to sail with on his boat. My wife, Beth, and I always came down here to walk around. Unfortunately, my wife was at work, but I had the day off. No clients scheduled today, so I could actually relax for a change. I was excited to finally wear my “vacation” shoes, a pair of Sperry Top-Siders. These shoes were the “Captain of Cool” as far as sailing shoes went. The fresh soles reminded me how often I actually get to relax, not much.

George's Childhood Memories (Chapter 1)

When I got to Chinatown, around noon, I realized how hungry I got, so I decided to head to a great lunch place called Ford’s. My wife and I would stop there for lunch every weekend, and we knew the lady that worked there, Beth.

As I walked up to Ford’s I noticed all the intricate brick work. Both the building to my right that contained Ford’s, and the sidewalk below my feet were both made of bricks. They blended so well together. The vertical plane of the building was the only clue that differentiated the two, as if the sidewalk was a direct reflection of the building. It reminded me of the market district in downtown Boston where I grew up. I really enjoy the warm color of bricks, and the patterns they create.

I reached Ford’s and opened the door. Beth was there taking an order for someone.

“Hey, George, I’ll be right with you”, she said as she acknowledged my presence.

I know hamburgers and hotdogs weren’t very healthy, but I was thinking of something much more specific- a philly cheese steak sandwich. I had heard from a friend about how Ford’s had the best philly cheese steak in Portland. We’ll see.

“The usual today?” She asked while I was looking up at the menu board.

“No, actually I was thinking of a Philly Cheese Steak, and a Diet Coke. A buddy told me that you guys have the best cheese steak”, I responded.

“Well, I don’t know about that, but we do get a lot of people that come in specifically for our cheese steak”. She finished writing my order and then looked up at me with a smirk. “Diet Coke, huh? You know, that’s not gonna really help out with your diet if you’re eating a cheese steak”, she said with a smile.

“Yeah, I know. I’m actually satisfying my chemical dependency of saccharin, to be honest” I chuckled. She laughed, and told me the total and I paid her.

As I bit into the sandwich, I was immediately brought back to the philly cheese steak that I ate as a child in Boston. It’s amazing how something as simple as a sandwich can possess such powerful nostalgia. The sandwich was pretty good, so I guess my friend knew what he was talking about.

“The sandwich was great. I’ll have to come down with Sue next weekend and have her try it”, I said to her.

“Hey, only if your strict diet allows it”, she said with a smirk. “Where is your wife, anyway?”

“At work, so I’m down here to run some errands and meet up with a buddy. Well, I’ll see you again soon, Beth.”

“Take care, George. Tell Sue I said Hi.” she said.

“Will do” I responded.

I smiled back at her and went on my way.

Revitalization of George's Sex Life (Chapter 2)

Thinking of my wife reminded me of my next task- getting her and I some ancient homeopathic remedies at the local Chinese herb shop. As I walked towards the river on Couch, I noticed the next stop ahead a block or so, the record shop. But first, I needed some herbs so I headed into the little shop.

I had never been in here before, but my wife and I had always wanted to check it out. The bell on the door chimed as I walked in. There must have been over a hundred clear glass jars, a little bigger than mayonnaise jars, all filled with different types of herbs. They all had labels on them to tell what each contained, but I had no idea what they said. The Chinese characters on them just stared back at me. A small, thin Asian man was standing behind the counter. I assumed he was Chinese considering my location.

“Hello, sir. How can I help you?” he asked.

“Man, am I glad you’re here to help. I’m a little rough with my Chinese.” I declared.

“Oh, it’s OK. I know Chinese, so I can get the herb you seek”, he responded.

“Wonderful. I need four items: green tea, jasmine, ginkgo biloba…”

He interrupted and said, “OOOOO, very nice herbs. Ginkgo is good for the mind. Green tea is good for the body. Very good. You are going to combine the green tea with the jasmine?”

“Yup. The jasmine, I think, makes the tea taste better. I also...”

He interrupted again. “Very good”

“Yeah, um, I also need ginseng. At least three of the…” He interrupted again.

“Very nice. Ginseng is good for the sex drive! Very good. Important for an aging man like you.”

“Yeah, well, I have a Chinese wife, well, half Chinese and she recommended it for me” I added.

“Oh, she is too much for you!” he laughed. “Chinese women are very hungry, especially the older ones.”

Wow, this guy wasn’t shy. I couldn’t figure out if he was trying to help me, or make fun of me. I felt a little uncomfortable, but I tried not to show it. So I attempted to hide the awkwardness and said, “You’re telling me. She’s an animal now.”

He started shaking his head “no”, and responded. “Ginseng is not enough. I have something special for you.” He then walked away towards the back of the store, bent down, and opened a chest. It was a beautiful wooden chest with intricate Chinese carvings all over it. He then pulled out a jar, similar to the other glass jars, and placed it on the counter in front of me.

“This is a very special herb. It’s an ancient Chinese remedy. I usually don’t recommend it because it is so strong. It is natural Viagra. You will like this very much”, he assured me.

“What’s it called?” I asked.

“Horney Goat Weed”, he responded.

“What an appropriate name” We both smiled at each other. “How much for everything”, I asked.

“Forty-seven dollars”, he responded while put my herbs into a bag.

“Thank you for your help. I’m sure my wife will appreciate your advice”. I smiled at him and walked out.

George's Love of Jazz (Chapter 3)

I continued walking towards the river on Couch and crossed the street to get to a small record shop called 360 Vinyl. The shop was mainly known for its hip-hop collection, but I heard that it had some jazz albums on vinyl. I love the warm sound of vinyl, and I have a very expensive turntable to play them. I had never been in there before, so I wasn’t keeping my expectations high.

I noticed a few customers looked at me with concern. They were probably wondering why an old fart like me was walking in a hip-hop shop. I continued to the jazz section and started thumbing through their selection. I realized this was more soul than jazz, but one album peaked my interest- Yesterday’s New Quintet’s album called Yesterdays. This one was the closest to the jazz I preferred. I grabbed it and walked to the register where the employee was talking on the phone.

“No, sorry. We don’t carry mainstream rap. No pop here. Maybe you should check out Sam Goody or Fred Meyer’s or something.” He looked at his co-worker and smiled. “Hey, but if you want to listen to some real hip-hop, come on by.” Click. He hung up abruptly and chuckled. He looked at me and asked, “Is that it?”

“Yes, sir. That will do for now.”

“Cool. Twenty-eight bucks”, he responded.

Crazy Old Bum (Chapter 4)

After I paid, I walked out and proceeded to head towards the river. I was all done with my shopping list and needed to meet up with my buddy at Kell’s. This was a regular place for him and I. As I turned the corner and headed towards the Burnside Bridge, an old homeless man started yelling at me.

“The end is near!” he yelled. “The end is near!” Then we made eye contact as I walked by. “You! You can stop it!” he yelled at me as he started walking towards me. I started feeling very uncomfortable, but there was light at the end of the tunnel. On the other side of the bridge were some officers on horses. I wanted to get closer to them so the homeless man would leave me alone. “You! You can stop the end of the world!” he ranted as he got closer to me.

“You got it buddy. I’ll take care of it.” I responded as a reflex from my discomfort. I walked faster away from him as I passed underneath the bridge. Finally, when the homeless man noticed the officers’ proximity, he backed off. I made it safely to the Skidmore Fountain block.

A Shitty Situation (Chapter 5)

(Fictional Story)

As I walked by, I tried to figure out what was happening. I feel my feet wanting to slow down, but my instincts were wanting me to keep going. My curiosity was the culprit. It overwhelmed my instinct to mind my own business. Three officers standing around with two horses and police car were all looking at something that the cop car was obscuring. There was also a woman standing there looking at the officers with deep concern. Were they going to arrest her? Or was she simply having conversation with the officers as fellow neighborhood members?
Walking around the police car, I could see a rather large pile of feces, which undeniably came from one of the horses. That's what the cops were looking at?
"Well, Reggie, that shit ain't gonna clean itself", one officer said as he looked at another younger officer.
The younger officer standing with his horse looked up at the older cop, and with a grin said, "I suppose I have to clean your horse's shit because I'm the rookie?"
"Damn straight", the older one responded. "Lord knows I've cleaned my fair share of shit. Besides, you need more practice caring for your horse, and we ain't gonna stand around waiting for your horse to shit."
"Well, I need something to pick it up with", the rookie responds as he digs through a trash can and pulls out a piece of cardboard roughly the size of a pizza box. He then ripped the cardboard piece in half and started to try to scoop up the pile onto one piece while using the other to push it on.
I was overwhelmed with the humor of the situation. The mysterious woman's bewildered look on her face made more sense now. She couldn't believe that these cops were making the rookie pick it up, as if he was an intern "eatin' shit" in order to eventually become an equal with his co-workers. Clearly, he wasn't an equal. There was definitely a hierarchy involved in these cops' relationships with each other.
I had to say something. I asked jokingly, "Is that a police-issued shit scooper?"
The two older officers laughed, but the rookie didn't find it humorous as he scooped the feces. The rookie stood up and looked at me with an aggressive glare and said, "Back off, sir. This is police business. Don't make me have to pick up more shit around here". He stared at me with a threatening manor.
The older cop on the horse yelled, "Hey, Reggie, have a little respect. Don't take out your frustrations of shit scooping out on this fine gentleman."
"I was only trying to lighten the shitty situation", I said with a giggle. The two older cops appreciated my sense of humor, but the rookie became more combative. I started thinking about what would have happened if the two older cops weren't around. Would he have tried to arrest me for interfering with a "police matter"?
The older cop stated, "Reggie, if you can't take a joke, how the hell are you ever going to be able to handle being an officer?"
The rookie didn't respond. He realized he wasn't going to win the argument. He continued to toss feces into the trash can on the sidewalk.
The older cop said, "Man, a bum is definitely going to get a surprise digging through that trash can." All the officers laughed, but the woman stood there still with that bewildered look.
"Am I under arrest?", shes asked as she looked at the older cop on his horse.
"Why, are you guilty of something?", he responded.
"You were the one stopping me. I have things to do and don't have time watching you guys scoop up shit", she responds sarcastically. She took another drag from her cigarette, and then dropped it and stomped on it.
The older cop looked at the flattened butt and said, "Your not gonna leave that butt there are you?" He then looks at the rookie and asks with a smirk, "Reggie, what's the fine for littering?"
"500 bucks", the rookie responds with a sneer.
The older cop pulled out a ticket book and proceeded to write her a ticket. I couldn't believe how these cops were harassing this woman. I rolled my eyes in disgust, as my instinct to mind my own business came back strong. My curiosity had been satisfied, so I continued on my journey to Kell's, an Irish pub, to quench my peculiar thirst.

George Finds his Friend at Kell's (Chapter 6)

As I walked into Kell’s, the bartender smiled at me. I smiled back and looked around for my buddy.

“George!” A voice shouted from the back tables. There he was, my buddy Dan.

“Hey, Dan, how’s it going.” I asked as I shook his hand.

“Good, good. You?” he asked as he sipped his beer.

“Oh, not bad.” I answered.

“Honey, can I get a Guinness, please?” I shouted to the waitress.

“Sure. You got it”, the waitress responded.

“So, what did you do today?” Dan asked me.

“Man, have I got a story for you”, I responded.