And for all my years of doing this presentation, a thought has been nibbling at my brain... I want to write a non-fiction picture book about the evolution of storytelling via the Jack Tales. (It's a tad bit complicated, so I'm not worried about anybody stealing my idea - which is why I don't mind sharing it with you!) But we've already lost some key people in the story - Ray Hicks (storyteller) and Richard Chase (gatherer of The Jack Tales). Was I too late?
I emailed Tina Hanlon, Associate Professor of English at Ferrum College, about my idea. Tina has become the documenter of Jack Tales whenever they are published in their various incarnations and had included Paco and the Giant Chile Plant in her records years ago. So we've emailed off and on for years.
"Oh, I wish you could come up," she said. "The Jack Tale Players are putting on a performance (potentially their last season) and Anne Chase (Richard Chase's daughter) will be here to see it."
Richard Chase's daughter? (The man who wrote the book I shared with you yesterday, The Jack Tales.) The Jack Tale Players? I had to go.
I put together an itinerary by leaning on the help of Jack Tale scholars and enthusiasts such as: Lynn Salsi, who has probably written more on The Jack Tales and Ray Hicks than anybody; and Lisa Baldwin, who wrote her thesis on Ted Hicks, Ray Hicks' son, and happens to be an amazing bluegrass musician. Then, my hubbie (Stan) and I hopped in the car and headed for Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia (just up the road from Ferrum College) to see the last performance and meet Anne Chase.
Are you noticing the circles here? Roanoke is right down the road from Lexington, where my grandparents lived when they gave me The Jack Tales way back in 1975. Rex Stephenson started The Jack Tale Players in 1975 too! Coincidences abound when we talk about the Jack Tales and how they've intersected my life.
I have to tell you the Jack Tale Players are no slouches. They put on a tight show, which demands a good deal of audience imagination. For instance, two players stand together to create a hearth, or several bob up and down to indicate they are on a ship. It's amazing how easily your imagination accommodates. On top of that, many of them are accomplished musicians. Heck, the lead actress, Emily Rose Tucker, played piano, oboe, and sang. Several are branching out as bluegrass musicians in their own right - check out Cornbread and Butterbeans. The Jack Tale Players were simply amazing and absolutely captivating.
Truly, could my trip be any more amazing? Well, yes, considering this was only the first leg of my journey. More on Wednesday...