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Storyteller shares holiday anecdotes

BY JULIA JESSEN | NOVEMBER 18, 2011 7:20 AM

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A personal anecdote about being zapped by holiday lights is one of the many stories Ron Clark will share at his one-man holiday show, Small Miracles.

A 5-year-old Clark was unpleasantly surprised by the shock he received as he tried to illuminate his family's Christmas tree. This memory stuck with Clark up to the day he sat down to compile a series of holiday stories to share with an Iowa City audience.

The production will play at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 25-26 and at 2 p.m. November 27 at Riverside Theatre, 213 N. Gilbert St.

"It kind of came out of that real passion for the holidays and what they mean to us," Clark said.

The production manager and resident artist of Riverside Theatre first wrote the script in 2000 and reprised it many times in the following years.

Clark is a storyteller. He feels a need to connect with his audience by sharing common experiences that everyone lives out in slightly different ways.

"These are common threads of loneliness, of redemption, of finding kindness in unexpected places," he said. "A good storyteller finds his way into people's hearts by revealing his own story with a need to tell."

One audience member whose heart was touched by Clark's storytelling is Megan Gogerty. The actor, who is also a solo performer, appreciated the way Clark used his natural charm and personality to pull the audience into his world.

"He's just got so much charisma," Gogerty said. "Anyone who's ever seen Ron onstage or gone to the Riverside when he's doing the curtain speech knows that he's a big, gregarious man who is just a hoot and a half."

Gogerty described the atmosphere of the show and the feeling it created in the past as comfortable and reminiscent.

"It's exactly like a cup of hot cocoa in that it is warm and sweet and transports you instantly to childhood," she said.

Clark said he hopes that as he sits in his overstuffed chair in front of the 1950s Sears cardboard fireplace, audience members will recall their favorite memories through his recollections.

"The greatest compliment a storyteller can receive is to see people as they're leaving the theater turn to each other and say, 'You know, that reminded me of my uncle and the time he went out and stole a Christmas tree for us,' " he said.

Jody Hovland, the artistic director of Riverside Theatre, said there is nothing between the audience and the story except the storyteller, and Clark's style of storytelling is what keeps the audience engaged.

"I think that kind of directness, that 'look you in the eye, talk to you' acting approach is very compelling," she said. "It draws you into the world of the storyteller immediately."

Clark said the show encourages people to take the time to slow down and enjoy the holiday spirit in a gentler way than through going to the mall, burning through credit cards, and stressing out because there is not enough time to get everything done.

"It's a way to get into the holidays through what's really, really important," he said. "Which is the people that love us, and remembering that, and remembering the essential connections that we all share."


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