Everybody has a valuable story that seems impossible to share.
Recently, a group of teenage unwed women found a way to solve this problem and properly express their struggle with other young people. They did this through cantastoria, which is the Italian word to describe picture story recitation.
Dave Buchen, a Puerto Rico-based puppeteer, visual artist and author, said cantastoria allows personal stories to be told in a way that makes them easier to tell because the story becomes separate from the person.
He led a discussion on cantastoria alongside Clare Dolan, a puppeteer and director of Vermont’s Museum of Everyday Life, on Wednesday evening at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry.
The talk was a prelude to the Banners and Cranks Mini Festival, which Buchen and Dolan first began in Chicago in 2010. It will feature cantastoria performances created by puppeteers, musicians and artists throughout the Northeast. Friday night will bring performances geared toward adults, while Saturday will focus on family-friendly shows.
Cantastoria originated in India and took place in many different forms. It involved a large, elaborate painting and often a song or story that went along with it. A partner of the storyteller would illuminate parts of the painting that coincided with the part of the story being told, according to Dolan.
They began as religious stories and the paintings were believed to have healing powers. If somebody was sick, the cantastoria paintings could be placed in the same room and heal them, she said.
Chinese picture stories were known to take monotone, chanting forms. Sometimes, their picture stories involved “peep shows”, where the painting was displayed on top of a box with peep holes. People who paid extra could look into the holes to see an artifact or another object related to the painting the story told.
Dolan said European cantastoria began as religious storytelling but transformed into succulent, sensational news stories later on.
Today, cantastoria uses more performers and props like puppets. Revivalists make paintings relevant to current day events. The Beehive group in Maine creates large banners that contain political messages. Korean feminist filmmakers use cantastoria to portray their ideas as well.
The art form holds one interpretation of a poem in a painting and another in a song, and when they combine, they create a whole new interpretation for the audience “which is fascinating,” Buchen said.
Sarah Maddox is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.