DAY 44 – WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 21

BURLINGTON LAYOVER

The day started with a drive into town to meet Savanna, the host at the Burlington, Iowa country music station, for a quick on-air interview between songs. The interview went well, short and to the point, followed by a song about a man and his truck. The air was heavy, like rain was coming in, but no heavy storms were predicted.

After the interview, we picked up my mom at her B&B and drove out to the Gugeler family farm. Jan was waiting for us, and she soon after introduced us to her husband Roger. He immediately set in telling us about the farm and the operation, how his equipment wasn’t like what the big farmers used, nor were his methods. Jan prompted him to get us in the “gator” with him and drive out into the fields, so Tom and I piled in and the tour commenced. We saw cows, cover crops, old farm equipment, an old farm house, a creek with a sunken in gate—Roger said the cows in the creek were “skinny dipping” and that he’d have to go skinny dipping as well in order to fix that broken fence! In the past he used to race cars, and has something of a graveyard of old cars waiting for scrap alongside one of his fields of crops. He also used to ride a motorcycle and take Jan out for treacherous rides up hills that lead to nowhere. We could have talked to Roger for hours, I think, and I do think I’ll make a trip back to visit my other family the Googlers for some additional knowledge and wisdom about farming in Iowa… once we rest after this long journey.

From here we went back to Bickel’s Cycling & Fitness to pick up our bikes, and then to the hotel for Tom and my dad to take over the van operation and drive to Oakville to recoup the miles lost due to yesterday’s lightning storm. Once there, the men met up with Mayor Benita—she had ready a kind gift, a card and donation to the project. The generosity continues to exceed our expectations by leaps and bounds. Tom had some light rain during his ride and light traffic, too, making the narrow road manageable. Once back in Burlington, Tom and dad settled into the brew pub for lunch and eventually met up with me and mom at the theatre.

The focus of the day was a workshop I led at the Capitol Theater of Burlington Iowa with seven young women. My mother has offered to write her testimony of the day, so here it is:

SEVEN YOUNG VOICES OF IOWA

A bit uncertain as to the format and content for the afternoon workshop at The Capitol Theater in Burlington, Iowa, Victoria arrived early to meet with Kara Ewinger, Volunteer Coordinator and Summer Theater Camp Director. Upon arrival, she was met by seven 2nd – 7th graders who signed up for what had been advertised as:

Movement & Storytelling with choreographer Victoria Bradford Styrbicki

Spend an afternoon getting energized, using your body to communicate ideas through a series of group exercises. Explore how each part of your body can be infused with emotions like surprise, confusion, or determination. By stretching your creativity and daring to do the impossible, you’ll discover the voice in your movement. We’ll not only practice these skills, but we’ll put them on stage by the end of the day—presenting all workshop participants in a Relay of Voices evening performance for the public.

The workshop began with Victoria introducing herself and the Relay of Voices Project to the young participants. Asking the girls to introduce themselves, they each spoke their names very shyly making it difficult to actually understand their names, necessitating special notations of hair color or clothing distinctions as the only way to begin to know who they were.

Victoria then placed each girl throughout the theater seating somewhat related to where they lived within the community of Burlington. The girls then were to share their “story” of the morning including their arriving at the theater. Again speaking very shyly, each girl told of her waking up, eating breakfast, watching television, and eventually riding over to the theater. Victoria then asked each to repeat their “story” using third person pronouns such as she and they. This exercise challenged the girls to think before speaking and somehow improved their voice volume a bit.

Next, gathering the girls onto the stage, Victoria introduced the concept of transformation, sharing their stories through movements and gestures; an advanced concept for these young thespians to grasp. To further experience the concept, the girls were then asked to speak gibberish in order to bring about energy to be transformed into movement. Though speaking gibberish was a totally new task, the girls got into it easily with lots of laughter as they worked hard to create senseless words and sounds.

The gibberish exercise then moved into a trio ensemble where one girl spoke the gibberish, one moved to the senseless words and sounds, and one described the movements being performed. Everyone rotated through all three roles reinforcing the concept of transformation.

Next was an exercise of voice projection. The girls were each given 15 seconds to speak any words they chose, first in as if yelling, then in a whisper, then in their “stage” voice, and finally in a “stage” whisper. Very interesting as each girl’s yelling volume was the only one actually able to be heard at the back of the theater seats.

After a short break, Victoria introduced the skill of “flocking” to be used in the choreography for the evening performance. Victoria described “flocking” like that of birds who flock behind one leader in formation, mimicking the motions and directions of the leader, ultimately moving in unison. As the girls were asked to share another story using words describing situations that would raise various emotions in their listeners, Victoria discerned certain key phrases to be transformed into movements to tell their stories. The girls, now feeling much more comfortable with the idea of transformation, each told unique experiences such as anxiety from not knowing how to swim, being frightened out of one’s skin, constantly falling asleep when riding in a car, fears from mysterious noises coming from the attic, and getting one’s foot and shoe stuck in the mud of the Mississippi River to mention a few.

After practicing “flocking” the storytelling movements, each girl returned to their designated spots in the audience and upon their cue, joined Victoria on stage and began mimicking the movements choreographed to tell their stories one by one. Once all of the girls had reached the stage, the choreography repeated all of the stories having been shared. The audience was truly amazed at the site of these young girls retelling their stories in a very unique “language” of movement and rewarded the performers with thunderous applause.

As each girl took her bow she confidently spoke her name, “I am Judith, Allee, Shannon, Izabella, Beka, Flora, Breynwynn…” further exclaiming “and I am a Voice of Iowa!”