Story Time

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Unique Lives & Women

Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on January 20, 1999. All rights reserved.

If you have heard via the media that we are living in

a "post-feminist" era, look again. For tangible evidence of

a level of autonomy and economic independence that never existed before

"Women’s Lib," take a look at "Unique Lives & Experiences,"

a national touring celebrity lecture series that has women in central

New Jersey shelling out real money to listen to and question some

of North America’s influential voices.

Record subscription sales have marked the opening of the second season

of Unique Lives & Experience at New Brunswick’s State Theater. Subscriptions

sales for the five-part series that begins Tuesday, January 26, with

Nobel Award-winning author Toni Morrison, available since late December,

priced from $99 to $224, have already sold out. Single tickets for

individual events have gone on sale from $26.50, and top-of-the-line

VIP series are still available at $450.

Also featured in the series is Academy Award winning actress Marlee

Matlin on Tuesday, February 16; internationally acclaimed actress

Mia Farrow on Tuesday, March 9; Betty Mahmoody, author of "Not

Without My Daughter," on Tuesday, April 13; and the four hosts

of TV’s popular magazine show, "The View," on Tuesday, May

25. Amber Edwards, host and producer of NJN’s "State of the Arts,"

will introduce the celebrities at the top of each evening. Question

and answer sessions with the guest speakers is one of the series attractions.

Unique Lives & Experiences, which began seven years ago as the brainchild

of producer Robert C. Benia of Toronto, bills itself as a form of

"talk theater" of inspiration and new ideas. Last year was

its first season in New Brunswick. The lectures’ predominantly female

audiences are, in the words of Benia, "more responsive to participating

in this type of forum where there is a two-way dialogue."

Opening lecturer Toni Morrison is a familiar face on the Princeton

University campus where she teaches creative writing. Last week she

joined an overflow audience there to listen to British playwright

Harold Pinter read from his work. Morrison was born Chloe Anthony

Wofford, in 1931, and grew up poor in the rust-belt town of Lorain,

Ohio. Her father was a ship welder, and her mother, Ramah, a homemaker.

Yet her parents instilled in all their children a strong sense of

their own worth. "I always knew we were very poor. But that was

never degrading," she told one interviewer. "My parents made

all of us feel as though there were these rather extraordinary deserving

people within us. I felt like an aristocrat."

It was as an undergraduate at Howard University that Chloe became

known as Toni. The fact that she became published under that name

was an accident that she regrets. "I was upset. They had the wrong

name. My name is Chloe Wofford. Toni’s a nickname," she told an

interviewer. Her family all calls her Chloe, and it was as Chloe,

she notes, that she went to Stockholm to receive the Nobel Prize.

Women sharing their burdens with other women has been Morrison’s experience

as well as her subject. She was a single mother to two sons, now adults

in their 30s: Ford, an architect, and Slade, a painter and musician.

Before coming to Princeton, Morrison held teaching posts at Yale University,

Bard College, and Rutgers University. She holds degrees from Howard

and Cornell universities, as well as honorary degrees from 11 other

universities. She was a senior editor at Random House for 20 years

before her own writing career brought her readers, critical acclaim,

and the highest literary honors.

Morrison’s writing crosses cultures and gender, addressing the human

spirit and its desire to triumph over adversity. "Song of Solomon"

won the National Book Critics Award in 1977, and her 1988 novel, "Beloved,"

awarded the Pulitzer Prize, became the 1998 movie produced by and

starring Oprah Winfrey. Her other novels are the 1998 "Paradise,"

"Jazz," "Tar Baby," "Sula," and "The Bluest


Toni Morrison, Unique Lives & Experiences, State

Theater, New Brunswick, 732-246-7469. VIP Benefit series tickets are

available at $450, providing admission to all five lectures and private

receptions with the speakers. Individual admissions from $26.50. Tuesday,

January 26, 7:30 p.m.

Top Of Page
Story Time

As kids get bombarded by "interactive media"

at home and at school — a euphemism, perhaps, for free babysitting

— you may wonder what ever happened to real-life "interaction."

If glitzy pixels and fractals are cluttering your landscape, you can

accompany your youngsters on some imaginary adventures with grown-up

storytellers who have never outgrown the idea of childhood.

The second annual Winter Storytelling series begins at the Arts Council

of Princeton on Sunday, January 24, and you can mark your children’s

calendar for 2 p.m. on eight consecutive Sundays through March 14.

Programs are geared to an intergenerational audience, inviting listeners

to share the dynamic power of oral literature.

The innovative series by Storytelling Arts is the only one of its

kind in the state, and features 11 of New Jersey’s professional storytellers.

Audiences are promised stories that are engaging, magical, lively,

and funny, as they listen to folktales from around the world.

"Storytelling is a unique art form that audiences find completely

enchanting," says Susan Danoff, executive director of the newly-formed

storytelling organization. "Each storyteller is different, and

audiences will have a multitude of experiences. Those who haven’t

been exposed to storytelling will discover a world rich with imagery

that enlivens the imaginations of children and adults."

Jim Rohe, who kicks off the series on January 24, has been telling

stories professionally since 1987 — and unprofessionally for much

longer than that. He is also an accomplished folksinger and musician

who plays guitar and harmonica in the course of his storytelling.

Participation is a key component of his performances where children

don’t just listen, they join in too. He performs for preschool, kindergarten,

and elementary-school audiences throughout the state. His repertoire

consists of more than 50 folktales and as many songs.

The series continues Sunday, January 31, with Susan Danoff; February

7, Mary Rachel Platt; February 14, Helen Wise and Joanna Foster; February

21, Paula Davidoff and Ellen Musikant; February 28, Luray Gross and

Julie Della Torre; March 7, Sheila Truncellito; March 14, David Brahinsky.

Tickets at the door.

Winter Storytelling Series, Arts Council of Princeton,

102 Witherspoon Street, 609-924-8777. $5 suggested donation. Sunday,

January 24, 2 p.m.

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