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Monday, October 11, 2010

SL ARTS & LITERATURE: ANY VIRTUAL INK - Dubhna Rhiadra weaves journeys in Second Life

Think about it! Storytelling in a virtual world: people sitting at computers controlling avatars who are sitting somewhere in a virtual environment and listening to someone tell or read a story. On the face of it there’s one reaction – Boring! That’s a lot of sitting! But the wonder of spoken stories in Second Life (SL) comes from one magical source alone, and that is the ability of a voice to enchant, express, and transport you away from all that sitting to somewhere you have never been before. I have heard a gaggle of “storytellers” in Second Life performing audible stories. No matter how you dress it up, if the voice is about as expressive as a paper sack it doesn’t matter what the storyteller is presenting. Of the people doing traditional telling in English on the grid, few can match Welsh-based storyteller Dubhna Rhiadra for her ability to capture your fancy with her voice alone, and spirit you away to another realm all together as she weaves a tale.
Rhiadra is an independent storyteller, not associated with a single guild or large group. Her voice is warm and accessible, and possesses a range of expression that is remarkable. Her tales are great journeys that wander in and out of thoughts and ideas, always surprising you with where you end up when the story is through. I never, ever tire of hearing her.

In the real world, Dubhna possesses degrees Theology and Celtic Studies, and a love of mythology and ancient stories has always been a part of her life. While studying Celtic languages at Aberystwyth she heard Irish storytellers and wished such a thing still existed in the English speaking world. I asked her about the first time she ever told a story:  “ I went to work with disabled adults and became involved with dance and discovered the performer in myself (as well as bringing it out in the people I was working with.) I remember going to a training workshop on arts and disability, and there was a storyteller, so I joined his group. When he asked us to do a story I found one just came into my head just like that- I can remember someone saying ‘Who are you?’ The guy who ran that workshop then went on to set up the Beyond the Borders storytelling festival in Wales. Then I picked up a copy of Women Who Run with the Wolves in a second hand sale and after reading that I just knew what to do with stories. I had a tatty old tape recorder and I spoke my first story into it, holding the whole machine up to my mouth because there was no real microphone on it. I still tell that story - Crystal Rose Warrior.”

When asked what she liked best about storytelling in the virtual world, it was the ability to bring together an audience that came to mind first, “In SL it is easier to market yourself by putting up notices, and you actually get an audience.” She continues, “SL has made me work harder than I ever would in real life. I used always to work very slowly and carefully preparing my stories, creating my own version, now I improvise with the text in front of me because I don’t have time to work so slowly. I have expanded my repertoire, because in real life I often just do one-offs, so can get away with telling the same stories over and over to different people. In SL I have to find new material. So it has been great for me. I think I have improved my techniques too. I think I am a better teller now than I was when I first started, just because I‘ve had so much more practice.”

Dubhna Rhiadra tells anything from traditional bedtime stories, to bloodthirsty Irish legends, to Indian or first Nations, and tells them in her own words so as to get to whatever it is that has made the vital emotional connection for her that made her want to share the tale in the first place. Among her very favorites is the North American First Nation tale Raven Steals the Light: “ I have used it in so many different contexts.” She often tells traditional stories but with a different emphasis, or blatantly changes them to fit her values. “Often I make them a bit more feminist,” Rhiadra admits candidly, “When I make my own stories I will take traditional themes and tell my own version of them. Maybe it will come because I have something I want to say, or I have been asked to make a story on a particular theme, or it will come in a dream. Who knows where the imagination comes from? I am involved in two collaborative projects now - one from a musician who had some songs and some dreams and visions she wanted made into a story, and the other from an artist who I have worked with before.”

Dubhna Rhiadra performs at various venues across the grid, but can always be found at her “home fire” of “Here Be Pictsies” on Bran at Noon SLT on Saturdays. During these sessions she tells her own tales, and often generously shares her fire with other storytellers as well. Treat yourself to one of her journeys.

~Caledonia Skytower, Reporting
"Any ink is good ink, even if it is virtual"


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