"Become aware what is in you. Announce it, pronounce it, produce it and give birth to it." - Meister Eckhart

06 April 2014

Let's Ask the Storyteller -- Dean Verger

"Let's Ask the Storyteller" is a new feature, whereby I ask listeners of my radio show The Teller and the Tale to send me questions to ask of my storytelling guests.

Canadian storyteller Dean Verger came to the world of storytelling as a writer. He began by telling his own original works, then added traditional tales for all ages from all over the world.

He has acted with Ottawa's Theater For Children, Orpheus, and Ottawa Little Theater. He has appeared at Centrepointe Theater, on stage at the National Arts Centre's Fourth Stage, and in the Museum of Nature. He has performed his original works on both radio and television and across Canada at festivals, cafes, and libraries.

Who or what called you to storytelling?
In my early days of school, in Ottawa and in Toronto, I was involved in the arts. I was in the school choir, I played music, and I was in theatre. There was no concept of storytelling. After my formal education, with a business degree, I opened my own restaurant, a little café called Rasputin’s. Being interested by the arts, in the early 80’s I co-founded the Ottawa Storyteller’s Workshop for Children. We were writers, as opposed to performers. I then found out about a Storytelling course given by the Toronto School of Storytelling. I took a weekend off, and took their introductory course. From this I added storytelling to our Sunday Brunch.

In the café, during the evenings’ quiet moments, I would pull out my guitar. Friends brought their instruments and we would jam. This lead to me building a stage, and beginning what we called an Open Stage. We hosted music, poets, and actors. And then I met Jan Andrews and Jennifer Cayley. I was still programming content for the stage. I asked if they wanted to bring storytelling to the evening stage? And they countered with the now famous Epic Series, a series that ran for over 12 years. This addition to my café’s programming introduced me to the storytelling community and my life-partner, Ruth Stewart-Verger. I have been actively performing, developing, and supporting other tellers for over thirty years.

What was the last story you performed or told?
My last project was a one-hour storytelling adaptation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. In the early stages of the development of the tale (as opposed to tail) I told select snippets at the Ottawa Storytellers’ monthly Swap. Then I performed it at house concerts, the Tea Party, Collected Works, the Ottawa Fringe Festival, and then finally in British Columbia. There I told to high school students during the day, and adults during the evenings.  During the BC tour I brought along my mandolin, and used music to bridge the transitions between the episodes.

I am presently partnered with a brass quintet. Myself and a second storyteller will be telling stories about the Rideau Canal. Each story will be bracketed by music.

Who's your favourite storyteller?
There are a number of tellers who catch my attention. And all for different reasons. Sometimes it’s the voice. Sometimes it's the physical delivery. And sometimes it’s the selection of tales. Right now my two favourite tellers are Marta Singh and Jan Andrews. Both bring a lot of thought to each presentation. They think about the story, the characters, their own movements, voicing intensities, and interpretations. They dive deep, past the words, and create motivations, background, and emotions from which they then launch their performances. Both are Ottawa Storytellers. Marta is originally from Argentina, and Jan from England. Each can tell traditional tales, or true personal stories that snare the audience and draws them through an emotional labyrinth.

Dean's latest project is a one-hour re-telling of Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Learn more about Dean at http://www.rasputins.ca/dean.htm.

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"We have received only very positive reports of your workshop, and must thank you for being so flexible and responsive both before and in the course of implementing the workshop. It has been lovely to work with you. . . . We are hopeful this project will give rise to future storytelling endeavours, and would be very happy to work with you again if the opportunity arises!" Muireann Crowley, At Home in Scotland, University of Edinburgh, May 2014 ("Storytelling, Research and Public Engagement" workshop)

Michael Williams is a a storyteller of compelling skill. He is also a fine human being who engages in all situations and draws people into the warmth of communication and shared experience." Donald Smith, Director, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh Scotland

"Michael's understanding of storytelling within a leadership and business context has helped us provide a great service in helping leaders determine their personal and organisational destiny and legacy. Working with Michael is inspiring and fun; and pulls you to be fully engaged from start to finish." Norton Bertram-Smith, Managing Director and Leadership Consultant for On Purpose.

Kamink: the little boy who grew into a giant of a man

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