Sieur Du Luth, the University of Minnesota Duluth’s summer arts festival, kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Marshall Performing Arts Center with “An Evening with Kevin Kling.” Accordion player Simone Perrin is the guest artist. The event is a fundraiser for UMD theatre scholarships and tickets are $15.
Recently, Kevin Kling talked about Minnesota stories, his brother Steve’s take on the autobiographical events Kling writes about, the storytelling process and what he is working on.
Kling is featured in Thursday’s Wave. Here are the outtakes:
ON WHO HE ADMIRES IN THE STORYTELLING NICHE
Recently, I’m more involved in the storytelling community. America: Our storytellers are so incredible. Kevin Locke, a Native storyteller from South Dakota won the Bush Fellowship, the Enduring Vision Award. They give out three a year for artists who are in kind of mid- or later-mid ages of their careers. The Bush Foundation was noticing that this is an under-funded time in your life. Kevin Locke was one of these awardees. He’s an amazing storyteller. My heart leapt when I saw his name.
Kathryn Windham, of Alabama. One of her childhood friends was Harper Lee. She’s just unbelievable. She’s the reigning superstar. … Donald Davis, Bil Lepp, winner of the West Virginia Liars Contest, he’s a minister. These are just a few. There are amazing storytellers around.
Growing up, I listened to Bill Cosby. And Lily Tomlin, later, when she took off.
ON OBJECTIONS TO BEING PART OF HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
If somebody is an adversary [in a story] I try to honor their point of view. If you look at Shakespeare, his best characters were villains. He gives all the perspectives on why people do what they do. It makes a better story. My mom had issues with that one, once, though. It was when I was about 3, and she dropped me off at Shriners [Hospital in Minneapolis], and I had her as just leaving. She said that I couldn’t imagine how hard that was. So then I had her as crying, and she said “That was good. People need to know I was torn up.”
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF DREAMS
I was in this motorcycle accident in 2001. I spent a lot of time unconscious and I remember it very well. … I think to come out of the coma, I had to come out epic. You can’t come out normal … Through that and probably some brain injury I had, the dream world isn’t as far away as it used to be.
I’m really careful with it. You can’t really talk about it unless it’s about how does it fit universally. What can we all use. Listening to someone’s dreams is really confusing. I’m really careful with that stuff. It does unveil some amazing secrets.
I was given the choice to follow a sense of peace, or come back to the plane of this existence. I choose to come back, but neither seemed wrong. I still have a foot in that other world. I can’t seem to extricate it. I had that experience. I didn’t follow the light, you know how they say that. I did have an amazing sense of peace. Once you have an experience like that you can’t pull your foot out. What I’ve come to realize is when I tell these stories and even though they’re about me, everyone’s nodding. Everyone’s had trauma, a broken heart, lost someone they love, lost physical abilities. I can tell these stories and they become archetypal about the ideas of loss. I try to stick with humor. When you can laugh at something, it doesn’t control you. I make sure there is a lot of sugar in there.
ON HOW LONG A STORY SIMMERS
A couple years. When it’s too close, it’s hard to do. You need to give it time. When you’re telling stories, you don’t want the audience to be worried about it. You want to be far away, that you have perspective and the audience can use you as a sound narrator.
ON DOING A SHOW THAT WAS BANNED IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC IN THE LATE 80s
They’re still doing “21A” in the Czech Republic … I performed it there in 1987 and we did it underground because it was banned, in the middle of the night. It was scary. I couldn’t sleep for weeks after that. You really start to understand how fear works on you when you’re doing it. When I did the play, everything made me nervous after that. You knew the phones were bugged, you knew the person standing in the hallway wasn’t just standing there. People at that time would disappear. “Where did they go?” The answer was “Don’t ask.” They weren’t done away with, but they were sent to another location.
ON WRITING VERSUS TELLING
You really don’t know what’s in a story until you tell it in front of people. Until I’m in front of an audience. When you write a story, you can see it on a page. The patterns make sense visually. When you tell a story, the threads are invisible.
Its logic is not the same logic you find on a page. Until you tell a story, you don’t know what you’ve got.
The last book I wrote, I did write a couple of these stories. Most stories I’ve written in these books, I’ve told them for 15-20 years. I’m just writing off the top of my head as I tell them.