Thanks to Adam Sargant’s project to make a crowd-funded DVD documentary about drut’syla storytelling – working title The Last Drut’syla? – Shonaleigh now has a presence on Soundcloud. Here she is, telling the story of Ruth and the Wind, part of the Ruby Tree cycle, and explaining a bit about the background of drut’syla storytelling to friends and acquaintances at Haworth Old Hall, on 16th March, for Haworth Storytelling Circle. The Last Drut’syla project has a blog here and a Facebook page here – have a rummage, spread the word and consider contributing to this amazing project – a feature-length documentary of a centuries-old storytelling tradition, never before recorded in any form.
Simon Heywood meanwhile presented a TEDx talk at Reading University on Missing the Arrow: the Search for the Truly Great Storyteller. The title is a reference to an old Jewish folktale and the talk used drut’syla storytelling as an example. He also gave a conference paper related to the drut’syla tradition to the Connecting Communities conference organised by the Pararchive Project at Leeds University on 28th March. In this technological age, how can we use technology to preserve and share oral traditions? What are the risks? Here’s the powerpoint, uploaded and ready to go. We’ll upload content from both conferences when it comes up.
Exciting times … our friend Adam Sargant is working to get a featured documentary made about Shonaleigh’s work and the drut’syla storytelling tradition. He’s speaking to film-makers and from April there’ll be a crowdfunding campaign to raise funding. A pre-crowdfunding phase has just launched, pledges have already started to come in, and we’re hoping to help Adam get the word spread as far and wide as possible before April. Here’s the links – browse away and spread the word!
Chatting after the presentation
We’re finally in business! On 7th March we gave the first substantial presentation about the drut’syla tradition, to a large, lively and friendly group at GEECS in Cardiff. Huge thanks to the Centre. The abstract is below. We took photos and recorded everything so hopefully we’ll have some more content to share soon.
Shonaleigh Cumbers is a drut’syla, a storyteller in a Jewish tradition inherited from her late grandmother, Edith Marks (d.1988), by whom she was trained from childhood. The drut’syla repertoire comprises twelve interlinked cycles, each of several hundred tales. Training also involves a complex system of oral memorisation, visualisation and interpretation (midrash) of tales. Historically, following training, each drut’syla (cf. Yiddish dertseyler, “storyteller”) would act as hereditary storyteller-in-residence to her own immediate community. However, the tradition was uprooted, and came close to extinction, in the mid-twentieth century, and Shonaleigh has been active mainly as a professional storyteller to a secular public. By contrast with rabbinical and official Jewish narrative tradition, documentation of the oral drut’syla tradition is sparse, and much about it remains obscure.
This presentation is based on a pilot research project funded by Derby University. It introduces live and recorded examples of Shonaleigh’s storytelling, and places them context, giving a general survey of Jewish storytelling, and the place of the female drut’syla within it; a brief biographical notice of Edith Marks, Shonaleigh’s mentor; a survey of the drut’syla‘s repertoire, training and working methods; a closer examination of one or two typical stories, with comparison with other versions of the same tale-type; and indications of directions for future research.