Tar Baby

This is a classic story called “Tar Baby” as told by John Marshall Cheatwood:

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A Boy Named Jack

This is an original story called “A Boy Named Jack” as told by John Marshall Cheatwood:

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A Weaver of Tales in a Video Age

The following post first appeared on Arts Consulting International:

Professional Storyteller

J M Cheatwood: A Weaver of Tales in a Video Age

In this day and age of television, video cassette recorders, and rent-a-movie shops, John Marshall Cheatwood seems like a bit of an anachronism – a gentle soul trapped in a wrong time.

Cheatwood is a professional storyteller. He depends not on synthesizers and zoom shots and fancy technological tricks to keep the attention of his audience. His “special effects”, if he uses them, are nothing more than his changing facial expressions, dramatic gestures and fluctuating voices. But Cheatwood insists that a storyteller must “let the story line be the important thing”.

Judging from the enthralled expressions on the faces of the few children and adults who didn’t allow the rainy weather to dissuade them from coming to hear Cheatwood on a recent Saturday, the art of a told tale has not been lost, Cheatwood feels that the main appeal of a spoken story lies in “the intimacy of it. It’s a from-me-to-you sharing experience that the tv can’t provide. They (the listeners) have to rely on their imaginations to provide the pictures instead of depending on the television. And it’s just the sheer beauty of the language that attracts people as well.”

Cheatwood demonstrated his art with a selection in which little frogs spoke with high pitched voices and big frogs spoke with low bass voices. When he was finished, he revealed that he had eight years of voice training in college which help him to perform such stunts. “If you didn’t have the breath, you’d ruin your voice,” he cautioned. “That’s really a dangerous thing to do for an inexperienced storyteller. You can hurt your voice, and you can also offend people when you start getting into dialects and stereotypes.”

Cheatwood’s repertoire of yarns includes Uncle Remus’ famous Brer Rabbit stories, all the “Jack Tales,” such as Jack in the Beanstalk, and some Appalachian folk lore. He recently found a story he is very enthusiastic about, “Elsie Piddock Skips in Her Sleep.” It is a rhyming tale that Cheatwood feels will appeal greatly to little girls. “It’s the type of story you have to memorize word for word,” he said. “Storytelling is a lot like music. A concert pianist might memorize a piece of music and play it back. We (storytellers) “breathe the breath of life into words.”

Cheatwood maintains that “there are more and more people like myself trying to develop a trade in storytelling.” Cheatwood himself has been at it for about ten years, every since he won a forensics championship. “For two years I did nothing but tell stories,” he said, “Then I found I needed to supplement my income.”

Cheatwood works for a law firm in Manassas, where speaking skills are also an important tool. He has told stories in schools, for day camps, and now hopes to become in demand for birthday parties and fund raising events.

According to Cheatwood, a storyteller can do a lot more for his audience than just entertain them. “You can help them overcome their psychological hurdles,” he explained, by the subject matter in a tale. Other objectives which Cheatwood had listed on a piece of paper were: to give a child a taste for reading, to stretch children’s horizons through our literary heritage, to demonstrate the fun of words, to better express themselves, and to put children in touch with the treasures of narrative literature, folklore and other types, in a way they will enjoy. Cheatwood pays careful attention to the length, pacing and rhythm of his stories, tailoring to his audience. And they’re not children. “When given the time, adults are just as interested,” he said.

If I could, I’d like to do this full time,” Cheatwood maintains. “If you have a story to tell kids, you not only get their attention, you get their respect. But I think I really enjoy telling stories more for my own pleasure than anything else.”

See source here: http://www.artsconsultinginternational.com/Storytelling.html

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