Bringing a class act to Fulton kindergarten


April 26, 2002|By Betsy Diehl | Betsy Diehl,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

ALL THE world's a stage," wrote William Shakespeare, and Crystal Brown seems to take that notion literally. The traveling storyteller visits schools in the region and turns classrooms into makeshift stages and pupils into performers, if only temporarily.

The term storyteller does not adequately describe what Brown does. She is a combination story director-producer-choreographer, using fairy tales as backdrops to gently nudge children into brief and unexpected roles as kings, princesses, animals and trees.

Brown, 62, spent Tuesday at Fulton Elementary School as part of a PTA cultural arts program to help kindergartners act out stories and poems.

There was nary a book in sight, but no matter - the seasoned raconteur pulled tales from her head as effortlessly as she whipped out capes, crowns and masks from the two overstuffed sacks she toted along loaded with costumes for the children to wear.

Brown warmed up her young audience with a shadow-puppet rendition of Little Red Riding Hood. With lights dimmed, she used a triptych-style screen that allowed only the soft glow of a light and the shadows of small figures on sticks to show through.

Then, after a series of quick stories illustrated with string-figure puppets, Brown was ready to get down to business. She needed a Mother Hubbard, she said, and a dog, and a Knave of Hearts. Hands shot up, and one by one she called pupils to the front of the room to be cloaked in glittery attire.

In her soft-spoken manner, Brown then narrated lively tales, prompting the fledgling actors with their lines and gestures.

"This experience is something the children don't usually get in school," said Brown, who began her storytelling career in the late 1980s. "I think that it develops their creativity and their intelligence."

Brown, a mother and grandmother who lives in Boonsboro, said her interactive story sessions fill a void in the highly structured lives of children today. "All their play is structured - they don't just go outside and play," she said. "Play is crucial. They need play; play leads you into art."

Kindergarten teacher Sandra Honecker considers Brown's presentations invaluable. "I love that it's not video, it's not electronic," she said. "It's what storytelling used to be. She allows every child to be a part of it if they want to. They add their own element to it."

Karen Vanisko, 5, was cast as a "strange little man in the forest" for a Romanian fairy tale, wearing an oversized hat and a colorful cape. Karen said she sometimes plays "dress up" at home, but this was much better. "I got to have my friends with me," she said.

Golfing for greenbacks

The Fulton Elementary School PTA has the perfect excuse for golfers looking to spend an afternoon on the course. The PTA is holding a school fund-raising tournament at Hampshire Greens Golf Course in Silver Spring on May 13 (the rain date is May 14) with a shotgun start at 1 p.m.

The cost is $95 a person. Bring a few friends and pay $360 for a foursome. All proceeds will be used to help pay for items on the teachers' wish lists, said Joan Brittingham, PTA publicity chairwoman.

The price includes greens fee, lunch, dinner, contests and range balls. The registration deadline is Monday.

Information: 410-531-7125 or 301-854-1220.

National Day of prayer

Four Savage churches are jointly holding an outdoor Community Prayer Observance to mark the National Day of Prayer on Thursday.

The free observance will be held at Carroll Baldwin Hall, 9035 Baltimore St., Savage.

All are welcome, regardless of religious affiliation.

Information: 301-725-7630.

Parting words

Stories and fairy tales are a part of childhood that many of us take for granted. Not so for Diane Li, assistant branch manager of the Savage library, who was born in Beijing at the beginning of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

"Folktales were considered old," said Li, 40. "Telling folktales was forbidden. They burned books."

The only book that was permitted was government-generated, "Mao's little red book," Li said.

But Li's grandmother, who raised her during the years Li's mother was detained in a Chinese labor camp for being "an intellectual," Li said, defied government dictates and secretly shared stories with her granddaughter.

Now that Li is a mother, she is rediscovering the "forbidden stories" of her childhood. "I feel like I have a second chance at childhood," she said. "You really treasure what you didn't get."

Tip Line

If you have a news tip in southern Howard, call Jason Song at 410-715-2836 during the day or leave a message after hours. If you have information on community events in southern Howard, call Fay Lande at 410-715-2811.

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