Leslie Perry was a professional storyteller. I did not know Leslie Perry. I did not know about Leslie Perry until after he died. In fact, I only “met” him when I saw his obituary. Well, I know a rabbit-hole when I see one, and I am still joyfully tumbling further and further into Mr. Perry’s story.
His life story is fascinating enough — from facing down Bobby Seale, Chairman of the Black Panther Party, during an Aldridge Players West performance of “The Mock Trial of Huey Newton” to his one-man show as Fredrick Douglass to cofounding the Los Angeles Storytelling Festival. An independent film about him by Erik Hudson, “The Story Man“, won Best Feature Documentary at the Logan Film Festival, 2013. I have not yet watched this movie, and anticipate learning more about Mr. Perry’s story. I may have to deliberately watch it slowly to savor every second.
But it is the stories he tells and his thoughts on storytelling that reach past the false punctuation of death. Life does not end then, or I never would have met Leslie Perry, yet now I feel he is my friend and companion. Thanks to video and the internet, we can still see and hear Mr. Perry telling some of the tales he loved to share. One of the first pieces I watched was his tips on storytelling, which he summarizes in 3 rules:
1) Tell it in a good, strong voice
2) Tell it with a lot of energy
3) Make it wonderful
To get a real feel for his power as a storyteller, listen to this brief excerpt from his tale, “The Prize Mule.” By the time the audience stands and joins him in the refrain, “Shake it off…stamp on it…and RISE up,” you know Leslie Perry, our storyteller, has spoken with our own unheard voice and shared it with us in a wonderful, moving experience.
Wow, I feel like I unearthed a box of treasure hidden in plain sight. Now I’m off to start listening to “Muse” – 3 parts, about 30 minutes, plus commentary.
Thank you, Mr. Perry.