Christmas stories celebrate love's power

Everybody loves a good story, and Saturday Downey city library volunteers were treated to not one but two at their 'Volunteer Holiday Celebration' to honor their vital contributions throughout the year. The event was sponsored, as it does every year, by the Friends of the Library and was held at the First Baptist Church gym.A new approach was tried this year. In the tradition of dramatic readings, two invited 'spoken word artists'-Sally Shore and David St. James-'emoted' the words of two short shorts with 'feel-good' holiday themes, which if nothing else definitely provided this reporter at least with a more meaningful perspective with which to view the coming holidays. Both Shore and St. James have similar rich film/TV/performing backgrounds, with Shore increasingly devoted to creating opportunities for presenting "new work by West Coast writers to a wider audience." She shaded her concept of spoken-word performance (differentiating it from a Hal Holbrook performance, say) thus: "They are not full performances, but neither are they simple readings. They allow the actors to explore characters and interpretations in scaled-down intimate settings, without scenery or staging. The actors sit on a stool and perform through gesture, expression and voice as they read the stories." This was exactly what Shore and St. James did. Both readers/performers had mellifluous voices, with St. James' stronger and, as expected, with more carry. St. James gesticulated more, too, as when he shadow-milked the family's cow. But I get ahead of my story. The book Shore read was "Christmas Tapestry' by children's author/artist Patricia Polacco. It's the poignant story of "two families, two faiths, and two lonely people united by a beautiful twist of fate." I read the book through afterwards, and the beautiful story of love touched me deeply. I learned later that the story is really an adaptation of a tale the author heard before in various venues in homilies. Polacco adapted the tale for younger readers. The second book read, by coverall-clad St. James, was Pearl S. Buck's "Christmas Day in the Morning," a beautifully-wrought story of a father's love for his son, and vice-versa. The boy's gift had something to do with milking a cow. Both stories are powerful, compelling. The Downey City Library volunteers had a nice treat.

********** Published: December 11, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 33