SOUTH KINGSTOWN — Milbre Burch has been called "one of the most important voices in the American storytelling revival.” On Saturday, the Grammy-nominated, internationally known spoken-word recording artist and storyteller, will present "Tales from Beyond the Ban: Folktales from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen" at Music N’ More at Lily Pads in Peace Dale.
Burch, who holds a Ph.D. in theater from the University of Missouri, has spent the last few years collecting and telling tradition tales. Her work in physical theater and kinetic storytelling was honed under the tutelage of Doris Humphrey protégé Meli Davis Kaye and Merce Cunningham trainer-dancer Carol Richard.
Burch is known for the way she frames her performances with excerpts of oral histories she has collected from immigrants impacted by the Trump administration’s January 2017 travel ban and for modeling storytelling performance as a tool for reconciliation.
“Oral tradition tales teach us how to be human in a sometimes-hostile environment," Burch said in a statement. "That kind of environment was engendered in America in January 2017 when international graduate students at my university found themselves being targeted by President Trump’s new travel ban, which targeted citizens of seven predominantly-Muslim countries."
It was during that time that Burch started collecting folktales from the targeted countries to tell in spoken-word concerts, and began engaging youth, family, adult and academic audiences to introduce the folklore of these cultures to all kinds of audiences.
Her show, she said, "is meant to engender understanding about the value of diverse populations and the transformational impact of storytelling on the hearts and minds of listeners and tellers.”
Over the last 40 years, Burch has found that the metaphoric power of stories allows audiences "to deeply engage in topics that might otherwise be too sensitive for a more direct narrative approach."
Burch, who published an article about her "Tales from Beyond the Ban" project in the online International Journal of Conflict and Reconciliation, writes:
"Any story performance, and especially one in pursuit of social justice, is meant to invite listeners into a communal space beyond the borders of their everyday lived experience. Within that space, the storyteller’s job is to move images from inside her own head into the heads of her listeners. And during that process, the willing listener steps through a virtual doorway into the story world and imagines the events — the choices made and the consequences that follow — alongside the story’s characters. When the story is done, the listener often returns to the ‘real world’ changed — as does the protagonist in the story — having learned something new about self or others.”
For more information about the performance at Music 'n' ’More at Lily Pads, call 401-789-0651.