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The art of storytelling with Carmen Agra Deedy

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Carmen Agra Deedy
  • Carmen Agra Deedy

It takes true skill to tell a 45-minute story and never lose your listeners' attention. Carmen Agra Deedy succeeded in this task on September 24 at the Storytelling Arts of Indiana's season opener, “Mama Mia!” Deedy shared the bill with Donald Davis; I'll talk about his performances on Friday.

The crowd was much smaller than I was expecting; the theater in the Indiana History Center (450 W. Ohio Street) was only about half-full. It made the evening more intimate and rows of blocked-off seats allowed me to sit close enough to the stage to see the performers' expressions — paramount, I soon discovered — but I was still surprised that more people weren't partaking of the evening.

Deedy excelled at relating to her audience. She asked that the house lights stay on and repeatedly addressed the crowd, which broke down any barrier between us. She spoke with a bit of a Southern drawl, and flew between various accents throughout her story, including her mother’s thick Cuban and a nasal voice to indicate herself as a child, and wove in plenty of sound effects. (My favorite was the rapid-fire duh-duh-duh-duh to indicate a table being opened to make space for a leaf.) Most importantly, she laughed at her own stories. Halfway through one of them, she revealed that a mean girl her mother had forced to play with as a child was actually her cousin. Moving from creative nonfiction to outright truth didn’t hurt at all, especially because Deedy kept switching from the girl’s pseudonym to her real name and cracking up the audience. The icing on the cupcake was that Deedy’s equally-mean aunt had allegedly not given her niece a good gift in 40 years, especially after finding out her daughter was the subject of one of the stories sweeping the country.

The performance was so well done that I was disappointed Deedy was only going to tell one story. That’s when I realized how much time had passed. Catch up with Deedy via her website and know that I am compelled, by the power of the pun, to say yes inDeedy, I am a fan.

Visit http://www.storytellingarts.org for information about upcoming performances.

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