Storyteller adds family tales to repertoireInternational Storytelling Center’s teller-in-residence series continues to celebrate its 10th anniversary season with a week’s worth of performances by storyteller and mime Antonio Rocha.
Rocha will offer daily matinees throughout his residency, which runs Sept. 13-17. All concerts begin at 2 p.m. in the Mary B. Martin Storytelling Hall, an intimate theater in the heart of the Center’s headquarters in downtown Jonesborough.
Rocha is celebrated for his unique take on traditional storytelling, which incorporates fluid movement into the spoken form. (He studied under master mime Tony Montanaro.)
“Mime is an eloquent body language,” Rocha says, observing that it’s used, to some extent, in all storytelling. “When somebody is on stage making facial expressions and gestures or leaning towards the microphone, that’s all body language. Even when you’re sitting down, you’re doing it. So to a certain extent, everybody mimes a little bit, whether they realize it or not.”
ut the more he worked with traditional stories, the more Rocha realized his own life followed similar rhythms and rules.
“Folk tales eventually helped me recognize all those archetypal characters in my own life,” he explains. “Folk tales aren’t about crocodiles and chickens; they’re human characters played by animals. I woke up to the fact that, my gosh, there’s a lot of stuff from my own life that I want to bring to the stage.”
In addition to stories about his childhood in Brazil, some of Rocha’s favorite personal pieces revisit his first years in the U.S.
“There are all these little snippets of my life in America, such as my story about being a millionaire for five minutes,” he says. “Now, you have to understand that I was a college student. I didn’t know much about American culture at the time. I got a letter from Mr. McMahon saying I had won a million dollars. I almost had a heart attack. My name was spelled right. Nobody spelled my name right in those days. I have five names, and they were all written correctly!”
It was a dark hour when Rocha’s American friends had to explain the phenomenon that is Publishers Clearing House.
“I was like, what do you mean I didn’t win anything!” he recalls, laughing. For someone who gained and lost a fortune in the course of one day, he was a very good sport.
During his week in Jonesborough, Rocha also looks forward to sharing a wide range of Brazilian and African folk tales. He relishes the opportunity to play with new forms and showcase new material for the Storytelling Live! series.
“It’s always good to come back to TIR,” he says. “It’s great to present new material and connect with new faces and the folks who know my work.”