When I tell people that I&
m a storyteller, they think it means that I read stories to children, but actually I don&
t read anything to anybody,&
says Debra Zaslow.
The longtime Ashland resident is probably best known for her storytelling at Rogue Valley libraries and schools. She&
s received kudos from world-famous children&
s book author Jane Yolen, and she was one of 12 storytellers invited to appear at the Exchange Place at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesboro, Tenn.
Since then, she has evolved her performance art into more directions, taken up writing, and produced her first CD.
Zaslow began storytelling in the late &
70s when, as an elementary teacher, she found putting the book down and telling the story created much more excitement. the &
80s she had attended numerous storytelling festivals and workshops and was leading her own workshops and performing at libraries and schools. She loves that with storytelling she can move in and out of character, while being focused on the audience: &
s a live art form, based on a fluid, oral tradition, so each telling is different,&
says Zaslow. &
And I perform for adult audiences as much as children, since storytelling is a universal, cross-cultural art that reaches people on a deep level.&
After a specialty for telling Jewish folktales &
Hasidic teaching tales and stories with strong female characters emerged in her art &
she began traveling as a teller, often including inspirational stories in keynote addresses.
When we identify with archetypal imagery, the stories are reaching us on some level; we&
re allowing them to join us to give us courage or comfort,&
— — Artist Sketch
— Name: Debra Gordon Zaslow — From: Grew up in Los Angeles; has lived in Ashland 33 years. — Age: 54 — Training: Bachelor of Science degree, education, SOU; Master of Fine — Arts Writing, Vermont College. Numerous workshops from master storytellers. — — Claim to Fame: Performing storytelling programs and giving inspirational — speeches around the nation, including the National Storytelling Festival — at Jonesboro, Tenn. — Niche: Blending personal narrative with archetypal story to create — original spoken pieces. — Inspiration: &
I use my life experiences as they unfold, in my — storytelling and my writing. My husband, Rabbi David Zaslow, always inspires — me to see the sacred in everything and be grateful.&
90s she had begun combining her personal stories with traditional stories, weaving them around each other in unique ways. This has become her trademark.
Then a few years ago when she&
d found a new focus, she thought she was done being a storyteller. She earned a MFA in writing and began composing a memoir about the experience of bringing her 103-year-old grandmother to her and her husband&
s home to live and die with her family.
I found, of course, that I wasn&
t really done with storytelling at all. Although I spend much of my time writing now, storytelling keeps calling me back to explore new realms; it keeps shaping me. I spent my summer teaching storytelling at the university, performing stories at the libraries, and making a CD of stories.
Much of the same artistic process that I use for creating oral stories, applies to writing. &
133; If I allow the images to surface and lead me where they will, the work stays alive and fresh.&
s first CD: &
Return Again: Stories of Healing and Renewal,&
is a blend of traditional Jewish stories, folk tales and teaching tales with her own stories, the last story having so much of the last ingredient that she refers to it as &
a personal fairy tale.&
What draws her back again and again to storytelling?
I can cast a kind of spell on the audience,&
she says. &
Sometimes, if I&
m really in the groove, there&
s a kind of synthesis that happens between me and the audience: The story flows out effortlessly, there&
s a hush in the room as if everyone is breathing quietly in unison, and I know that I&
m reaching people&
s new CD, &
is available downtown at Bloomsbury Books, Soundpeace, or at the Havurah Synagogue, 185 N. Mountain Ave.