Twain House Valentine: 'I Married a Monster'
Published 1:16 pm, Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Tired of celebrating St. Valentine's Day the same ol', same ol' way?
The Mark Twain House & Museum may have just the ticket for an adults-only experience.
On Sunday afternoon, Feb. 17, master storyteller Tom Lee will weave his magic in a program on "Untraditional Marriages: I Married a Monster!" Literally, said Lee, laughing.
Think "Beauty and the Beast," for example. Or the Norwegian folktale about a beautiful woman who is forced to marry a polar bear; or the Peruvian story about the future wife of the Snake King.
Lee, a teller of folk stories, myths and legends -- some more than 5,000 years old -- is the star of a series of "Grown-Up Storytime" events at the Twain House this season. (Next up: On St. Patrick's Day, Sunday, March 17, he will return to present "Celtic Shadows: Forgotten Gods of Ireland.")
In a recent telephone chat, the 52-year-old Lee, of Chester, said he has been performing for more than 20 years for both children and adults, telling tales he has researched extensively at museums and libraries throughout the country.
His 75-minute sessions are tailored for his audiences and often reflect a special theme. The tales can run the gamut from beautiful, whimsical, dark, absurd and frightening to futuristic, serious, poignant and evocative of the distant past, he said.
More InformationMark Twain House & Museum, 351 Farmington Ave., Hartford. Sunday, Feb. 17, 2 p.m. $15. (House tours extra.) 860-280-3130; www.marktwainhouse.org
Among his specialties are Greek mythology, Egyptian and Mayan myths, Native American tales and those from Shakespeare, as well as stories from ancient Mesopotamia, India and China and Medieval Europe.
In addition to being a master artist with the state's Offices of Culture and Tourism, he is the storyteller-in-residence at the R.J. Kinsella Magnet School of the Performing Arts in Hartford, and director of artsVoyage program at Spencertown Academy in Spencertown, N.Y.
Lee said his on-stage goal is always to "stay out of the way of the story. I do my homework and (have honed) my craft. ... I'm just a conduit for the story."
He said that he feels a story is worth telling "when it's relevant to me. That's essential in order to make a connection with the audience, whether children or adults. The story, whether funny, sad or shocking, needs to be compelling (on its own) so I can present it in a hands-off way. "
As for the upcoming holiday event, Lee said that the theme of love and monsters is a very common element in human psychology.
It's a theme ever-present in the history of humankind. "When love becomes part of the monster's world, is it redemptive, transformative or is it tragic?" he asked.
Raised on Cape Cod, Mass., Lee said he was living in London after college, training in classical theater, when he "ran away" one summer to a tiny fishing village in Scotland.
There he became enamored of the stories of the Brothers Grimm. He recounted that "when friends asked what I was reading, I found myself caught up in recounting these amazing, sometimes unsettling tales."
Thus, a career was born. And he couldn't be happier.
"Often when I doing a performance, I think `this is exactly what I should be doing.' The greatest pleasure I get is at the end of a story, watching the faces in the audience as they come to realize that for 75 minutes they have been transported to another place.
"I revel in being in a place where the story lives ... and keeping this ancient tradition of story-telling alive."
firstname.lastname@example.org; 203-330-6284; http://twitter.com/PhyllisASBoros; www.ctpost.com/boros/
Mark Twain House & Museum, 351 Farmington Ave., Hartford. Sunday, Feb. 17, 2 p.m. $15. (House tours extra.) 860-280-3130, www.marktwainhouse.org.