June 2019

Loga Ramin Torkian and Azam Ali
Loga Ramin Torkian and Azam Ali


Dear Friends and Family,

My recent presentation at the Commonwealth Club was yet another lovely reminder of how stories beget more stories…how sharing my experiences and those of the characters depicted in The Snow Clown resonate with people and inspire them to find parallels in their own lives… and then the rich conversation flows. The podcast of this interactive program is now up on the Club’s website – enjoy!

When I was running The Clown Conservatory, one of my students chose to do her research project on Native American clowning. She worked hard, even driving down to Arizona to visit the Navajo nation. In the end, her report was, “I couldn’t find out anything about Native American clowning. All I know is that we’re not supposed to know because their clowning is part of a sacred ritual. It’s not for us.”

Pencil Yam Dreaming by Judy Purvis Kngewarreye
Pencil Yam Dreaming by Judy Purvis Kngewarreye

I was reminded of this student’s report last week during the Artistic Literacy Institute at Zellerbach Hall when my old friend and mentor Sabrina Klein was demonstrating a way to explore a work of art, in this case a painting called Pencil Yam Dreaming by Judy Purvis Kngewarreye (detail on the right).

Sabrina mentioned that the themes of this painting go back 30,000 years and include Australian Aboriginal concepts like “dreamtime” that we are not invited to explore. On the other hand, the title is in English, the painting was sold by the artist and it came with some background information – all invitations to explore other aspects of the artwork.

The day after Sabrina’s talk, I joined a panel on Cultural Appropriation, Exchange, Assimilation and Appreciation led by composer-performers Loga Ramin Torkian and Azam Ali (top image) with Ocean and Vietnamese multi-instrumentalist Van-Anh Vo. Loga and Azam talked about the role of art as always being twofold – the preservation of culture and tradition as well as re-imagining the boundaries of national and individual identities. We talked a lot about power, about how there are lines of cultural, historic and economic power in every exchange. I gave examples of cultural exchanges that are the heart of The Snow Clown and the complex threads of power and identity in the Yup’ik villages, everything from art and religion to history, language, storytelling, policing…even food.

Jeff Raz. Photo courtesy of Stuart Locklear

Want to ZOOM in with me?

Want to Zoom with me as we delve into the art of storytelling in the business environment?

I’m doing a webinar with the International Association of Business Communicators on July 2, from 10 am-11 am. Click here to register.

Webinar for International Association of Business Communicators
“Delving into the art of storytelling in the workplace”
June 26, 2019
Click here for more information or to register.