This Saturday, we will hear from master story teller and movement artist Jerry Falek. Jerry teaches performing and visual arts -- storytelling, dance, creative movement, and weaving -- as a guest artist in schools. He also performs as a storyteller before audiences of dozens to hundreds of people. His work has taken him to schools and museums throughout the region, as well as to the nearby state prison, Stanford Children's Hospital, and programs for high risk teens. "If you want to see the beauty in life," Jerry says, "go to where the world is intact, whether it's the symphony, nature, or a home cooked meal with good friends and family. But if you want to see the underpinnings of life, go to where things are unraveling, go to the edges. That's where the mysteries reveal themselves. Spend time with the poor, go to the desert, sit with someone who's dying."
Jerry believes profoundly in the power of stories: "I collect stories. I think in stories. When I'm lost it's because I've lost the thread of my own story. Or maybe I need a different one. I've had good teachers my entire life, but stories have been my mentors. They show me the way others have gone and either succeeded or failed. They teach me empathy and open the doors of compassion. How can you have compassion for someone if you don't know their story and understand it?"
Jerry has focused his work on the social and emotional needs of children. In his storytelling workshops, he performs stories of our collective past in order to broaden the cultural and emotional awareness of children and to help inoculate young people against complicity and complacency in the face of oppression and genocide. He also helps youth tap into and perform their own personal stories. As a movement artist, Falek offers creative movement workshops to provide children with an opportunity to use their bodies expressively and allow for the needs of kinesthetic learners to be addressed.
Jerry especially likes traditional stories -- folk tales and fairy tales. "We talk about the wisdom of elders," Jerry says, "but most of us are lucky if we've had more than a few elders in our lives. But the wisdom of elders is available to us whenever we want it. It's in the old stories. When I face a large problem and feel stymied, I go to the folk tale section of the library and begin to read from one side of the shelf to the other until I find the tale that points the way. . . . At this point in my life I'm keenly aware of being at the threshold of the next stage of life. Three faith communities call me elder. I'm trying to get used to people offering me a chair. A good story is often far more valuable than an answer."
Falek received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Carnegie-Mellon, and a master’s in special education from American University in Washington, DC. He is a former special education teacher. He kayaks in the ocean whenever possible, and bakes a lot of bread. He is proud not to have a cell phone.
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