Artist sees wisdom in old stories

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By Chris Kieffer

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Today’s entertainment focuses too much on self-gratification, said the artist who visited Rankin Elementary School on Wednesday afternoon.

So Doug Berky tried to leave the students with old-fashioned storytelling, an appreciation of other cultures and a handful of lessons.

“I want to help them understand there is a wealth of information in old stories,” Berky said after his hour-long performance in the third- to fifth-grade school’s gym. “With all of the TV entertainment, we forget to tell each other our old stories.”

Berky is this year’s guest for the Link Centre’s annual artist residency program. His week-long schedule includes performances for all of the Tupelo School District’s pre-K through fifth-grade students, a teacher workshop and a lesson for hospital staff about the role of humor in healing. He also will visit First United Methodist Church, the Boys & Girls Club and North Mississippi State Hospital.

On Saturday night, he will give a public performance that will combine circus skills, mime work, slapstick humor and music. That will begin at 7:30 at the Link Centre.

“When we think about the arts, they inspire, they heal,” said Shawn Brevard, the chair of the Link Centre’s Performing Arts Commission. “There are so many elements, and it is wonderful when we can find someone like Doug who can bring it all together.”

At Rankin Elementary on Wednesday, Berky used handmade masks and costumes to tell the students three fables from various cultures.

One was about a mouse that saved and later befriended a lion, another was about two men with disabilities who worked together to reach a goal and the final one featured a boy whose only concern was to help his grandmother.

“I learned you can’t always think about yourself; you also need to think about other people,” said fifth-grader Destiny Magee, 11.

Classmate John Braxton Daughdrill, 10, said it was good for students to see the performance.

“It teaches kids the morals of the stories,” he said.

Berky said he searches for tales that speak to him and that relate to “what our needs are as a human race.”

“We need to treat each other well,” he said. “It is the golden rule…When a community is strong, everyone is strong.”

chris.kieffer@journalinc.com