People have told stories since earliest times to entertain, inform and pass on cultural values. They have also used stories to persuade. In today’s fast-paced world, corporations use stories to sell products and gain competitive advantages. Political parties use stories to elect candidates and garner support for controversial policies. Military leaders use stories to inspire courage and foster unit cohesion. Social activists, educators, environmentalists, economists, religious leaders and a host of others use stories to promote their views and agendas.
Friday, storyteller, writer and radio producer Joe McHugh will present a multi-media commentary on what he terms “the rise of the storytelling industrial complex.” Entitled “Slaying the Gorgon,” this fascinating and provocative multimedia presentation looks at how stories are told in the modern age given the dynamic and transforming influence of new technologies.
“From the venerated saints and cathedrals of the Middle Ages to the pop stars and cineplexes of today, images and sound are increasingly supplanting the authority of the printed word,” said McHugh. “By so doing, they are radically altering the cultural, economic and political landscape in the United States and around the world.”
McHugh frames his commentary with a series of provocative questions: “What does the myth of Perseus and Medusa tell us about how the technologies of storytelling shape the way we think and act? Why do political candidates need the blessing of media saints to get elected? Is society becoming more tribalized because of media? How does today’s industrialized storytelling over-stimulate and exhaust the imagination and what can we do about it?” McHugh explores using a combination of plain language, intriguing images, recorded stories, and humor. His goal is to provide an opportunity for reflection and discussion about these vitally important issues of today.
This home-grown philosopher “has worked for over 30 years helping young people, organizations, and communities find and tell their stories.” He has collected and published books of traditional folktales from the mountains of Appalachia, produced multicultural festivals, directed a museum, designed a literature camp for children, pioneered the use of radio dramas with young people and produced and hosted programs for public television and public radio.
“I am thrilled to be returning to the Sierra during spring to present this work,” said McHugh. “I know that people in the Nevada County area — and at the North Columbia Schoolhouse in particular — are enthusiastic about the art of storytelling and will find this presentation provocative.”
McHugh has presented at numerous national and regional conferences and has served as a project consultant for several state departments of education, the National Council of Family and Juvenile Court Judges, the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association, and other organizations. He is the author of Kilowatt, a modern-day fable about the energy industry and the nature of time, and is currently writing a trilogy examining the art and practice of storytelling in the modern world.
McHugh lives in Olympia, Wash., with his wife, Paula Blasius-McHugh, who is a painter, graphic designer, and musician. Audio stories from his archived public radio series The Telling Takes Us Home, a Celebration of American Family Stories can be heard at http://americanfamilystories.org.
Tickets for McHugh’s presentation are $12 for members of the North Columbia Schoolhouse Cultural Center, or $15 at the door and $8 for students with ID. Tickets are available at BriarPatch Co-op, Mother Truckers and the Ridge Café.
For more information, go to http://northcolumbiaschoolhouse.org