You may remember me from certain medieval societies as Lao Tao-sheng – “Old One, Born to Tell Tales.”
Once upon a time I presented a “One Monkey Show” – a seven hour solo presentation of the first seven stories from “The Journey to the West” at a medieval event called Ducal War, at a park somewhere in Oregon, on a weekend in August in either 1983 or 1985, depending on how you remember time…
These are photos from that original show, forwarded to me by Rich Edwards. It was just over 100 degrees in the park that day, and for the first half of the show, I was wearing every layer that you see here. I remember taking off the brown coat to expose the leather scale costume armor, and just standing for a minute with my arms extended, waiting to cool down…
A few months after presenting this work, I was invited by a couple of friends to recreate my performance for public access TV in Longview. We spent an afternoon taping the first half of the show, but I never returned to tape the second half. As far as I knew, the first set of tapes never aired, and after a few years I had forgotten entirely about that day. Life events prompted me to retire from performing in 1993.
And then, on June 1, 2021, a package arrived in the mail:
After watching your interview with The Sisters [a regular feature on Facebook], I was surprised to hear that there were no other films of your storytelling performances. I decided it was past time to see if I could get what I had of the Monkey Tales into readily viewable form. When KJTV converted to digital, Gary saw they were disposing of old VCR tapes. He grabbed what he could find of the tapes from our Monkey sessions and got them to Leslie and I. There was one mix tape that was aired, so it had wear, as well as original camera tapes. I asked Noah if he could use his contacts and film knowledge to save these and put them into a form that will last better.
He had them transferred to digital and did some cleanup…You can tell that there is some age involved, and that we were rookies as far as filming a performance is concerned. Noah did a great job of cleaning up the small technical issues…I wanted to make sure you had copies of some of the fantastic work you did and could let others see a sample of it…
I hope this brings you joy.
Max Slape (Master Cormac of Caermont)
The discovery of these tapes gave me the impetus to shake the dust from the notes I had collected while preparing these stories, which culminated in the solo show which took about a year and a half to prepare. You can read that six-part series here.
Here are a couple of teasers, courtesy of film editor guru, Noah Hale:
And as they say, “without further ado”
I invite you to my August Phoenix Rising Event
“The Tales of Monkey” – as performed by Heather Daveno
Live Streamed from YouTube
and simulcast on The Sisters Interview on Facebook
starting at 2 PM on Sunday, August 22, 2021
Click on the YouTubes below, and thank you for helping me celebrate this premier!
[Heather] in the persona of Lao Tao-sheng, is a performing artist specializing in the authentic re-creation of the fold tales of medieval China and Mongolia. Years of study and personal training have developed Lao into a historically accurate example of the street storyteller who was the forerunner of the modern day Peking Opera.
Of her repertoire, the Tales of the Monkey King are the most well known and most often requested. The tales are taken from a classic entitled “Journey to the West,” an allegory based on the travels of a 6th century monk. During the performing of these tales, Lao plays many characters — dragons, ogres, generals, patriarchs — and most famously, the Monkey King. Wielding his iron staff, riding upon magic clouds, he wreaks havoc and defies those who would doubt his importance…
“…[She] brings Monkey to life with an authentic Chinese costume, makeup, a big fancy fan and her voice. With a few props and a painted backdrop, [she] plays all the parts. She undulates like a curtain of water, chatters like a passel of monkeys and parries with a ‘golden’ spear.
But mostly she’s the Stone Monkey…
The Daily News – Longview, Washington
Oh the delights inspired by your brother’s gift to you of a wondrous little book! The memorizing of 6 hours of the stories of the Monkey King was impressive and the performance delightful! All hail Noah Hale for lovingly editing the older videos into the newer format, thus preserving this treasure! Many thanks to The Sisters for airing this and gratitude to the woman formerly known as Her Grace, Lao Yu for sharing it!
Thank you Dayna. It was a group effort, even from members who didn’t realize they were part of that group 🙂 My heart-felt thanks to Max Slape who instigated the studio project, to Noah Hale who did a remarkable job of editing and transferring the work from VHS to Digital, and to Dawn at The Sisters Interview who held my hand through much of the technical aspects of this simulcast. And Payne Fifield for gifting me the book of Monkey Tales that started this entire thing. I am happy to answer questions that anyone has about these productions and background articles on “The Storyteller” page. You are welcome to share any of the posts from that page as well as the YouTube videos and teasers: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzpW13Y2wLMBJhDN6PfwiAg/videos