The Storytellerís Art

After a life-changing accident, performer and author Kevin Kling will never tell another tale the same way again

While worries about the new medium may have frightened Kling enough to keep him from working on the book, once he got started the fears drifted away. "I thought I would get frustrated and that it would be hard to write, but I found the opposite to be true."

Like his recent shows, which have compared his experience to a trip into the classical underworld, The Dog Says How examines Kling in his post-accident world. It changed his perspective on nearly everything in his life. "I used to have to run marathons to get the same rush as I do now with simple tasks," Kling says.

Kling notes that while his own experiences may be unique, the feelings surrounding them are universal. "My accident happened a month before 9/11. And in the time after that, as I went through all the symptoms of trauma, I watched the country go through the same thing. We've changed. We can never be the same as we were. So my stories are personal, but people understand trauma, as a culture and a country."

Daniel Corrigan
Daniel Corrigan

And there's one reaction Kling always hopes to hear.

"I hope people laugh," he says. "These days, people need to laugh."

His most recent piece, "Come & Get It," played at Open Eye Figure Theater last month. The work featured collaborations with musicians Michelle Kinney and Simone Perrin, a direction Kling hopes to continue in future shows. The Fitzgerald gig is just the first of a fall full of performances for Kling. The weekend after, he'll be in Jonesborough, Tennessee, for the 35th National Storytelling Festival. He'll follow this up with more festivals and a number of bookstore appearances for The Dog Says How. He says he'll try to use the book to tell the stories, but "at this point I don't need it to tell the stories."

For Kling, what Americans have done to storytelling is similar to what we did to music with jazz—taking the form in new directions, with unexpected twists along the way.

"When our ancestors came here, they had their stories," Kling says. "There was a different energy in America, and that changed their stories."

Storytelling, Kling has found, has a strong sense of humor and a strong sense of self, which can explain why the art form has endured for so long. "Storytelling helps tell us who we are. It's not the false sense of nationalism, but who we are as a people. And within the stories, you can find that the big questions are being asked. And if you don't find the answers, you at least know that you are not alone."

Regardless of the place or time, stories can have a universal appeal. "I told ice-fishing stories in the middle of Australia," he says. "At first, they wouldn't even believe that it was possible, but then they picked up on the sense of isolation, and that a change in the weather could kill. That was something they could believe."

Kevin Kling performs at 7:30 pm on October 2 at the Fitzgerald Theater, 10 E Exchange St, St. Paul; 651.290.1221

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