The Art of Storytelling  Aug 7 – 11 @OMA
10. a.m. – 1 p.m. & 3 – 6 p.m.

With Yuri Vedenyapin

Amol iz geven a mayse
("Once upon a time, there was a story") – so begins one of the most famous Yiddish folksongs. Yet every time a story is told, no matter how old, it is relived afresh. The traditional opening phrase “once upon a time” is never just about the past – it’s also about the present and the story’s relevance to our lives today. The storytelling workshop, in its second year at Yiddish Summer Weimar, will be an intensive exercise in finding, crafting and presenting stories in Yiddish. Topics to be covered include: 

•  Sources for Yiddish stories. We’ll look at the range of topics and approaches in the Bible (using traditional Yiddish translations), Hasidic tales, and works by such masters of literary Yiddish storytelling as Sholem Aleichem and Isaac Bashevis Singer. We will also examine the place of non-Jewish material in Yiddish stories and analyze specific techniques of incorporating such material and making it Yiddish.

•  The particular possibilities (and limitations) of different ways of sharing stories: reading it from a book, acting it out, telling it from memory, and improvising.

•  Traditional storytelling techniques – voice, delivery, pacing, plot structure, use of props and music, and so on – with special emphasis on Yiddish words and phrases that help direct listeners’ attention and retain their interest.

•  Stories in different moods, from stand-up comedy to tales of tragedy and loss. We’ll examine the range of emotions that different types of stories can evoke in listeners, and how such reactions can be empowering for both the storyteller and the audience.

•  The Yiddish lexicon. Yiddish is a language with a very rich vocabulary and a friendly attitude toward linguistic newcomers –­ both borrowings from other languages and new words that can easily be created by its own speakers. We’ll immerse ourselves in these riches and explore some of the unique tools provided by the Yiddish language and how these can be embraced by the storyteller. Every language has its own internal logic: individual words have specific connotations and may be associated with other words, images, or even entire stories. As the proverbs goes: Az men zogt alef, muz men zogn beys (When you say A, you have to say B). While we may sometimes discover that the best way to craft a compelling story is precisely not to say B, it helps to know what that B is.

•  The roles of translation, repetition, and explanation when telling Yiddish stories to people with little or no knowledge of Yiddish.

Participants will also be called on to tell stories of their own in a master class setting and receive feedback from both the instructor and his or her fellow-students.
This course is run entirely in Yiddish and those who would like to participate as storytellers will need a good knowledge of the language. If you feel that your spoken Yiddish isn't yet good enough for you to take an active part in the storytelling, you are more than welcome to attend, learn about the traditions at first hand, and listen to the stories – which might inspire you to work on your Yiddish skills and participate in the course more actively in coming years.

If you have any questions about this workshop or whether it is right for you, please contact Andreas Schmitges:

Workshop fee: Standard 225 € / Reduced 180 € / Supporter 300 € / Under 18: 180 €
For information about the Standard, Reduced and Supporter fees >> read about
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