Since the fall of '81, the Performing Arts Ensemble, composed of artists and musicians, has participated in workshops and performances for children, teachers and parents as part of the Wolf Trap Head Start programs. Next Friday and Saturday nights these artists will join together for two evenings of more public entertainment. On Friday night the performers will include storyteller Jon Spelman and jazz musician/composer/teacher Gene Ashton.
"We tend to think that storytelling is for kids," says Spelman, who doesn't think so any more. "It takes adults a little longer to tune in . . . and they enjoy it too." He tells different sorts of stories for different audiences: "Friday night I'll be doing what I call 'Tales From the American Landscape.' They're contemporary fables rather than folk tales . . . One of them is a kind of a mixture of 'Our Town' and 'The Twilight Zone.' It's about a mysterious man who mesmerizes a town and then . . ."
Spelman has collaborated with Ashton in the classroom: "We've worked together with rhythm and repetition," says Spelman. And Ashton: "The kids love to listen to Jon. He's large and broad and the kids love to watch him."
Ashton, formerly a jazz musician in New York, now considers himself a "general practitioner of the art," having done everything from weddings to teaching. He also composes and performs on instruments he's made himself. In one act all the instruments used were made by Ashton: "I'm using my son, Jonathan, who's 13. He'll be playing the bass drum. Achille Ango will be on the snare drum, and I'll be playing the fife." Ashton says he got the idea for this act from when "the Union Army came South during the Civil War and the black people adopted the fife and drum ensemble in Mississippi and Alabama."
Ashton has found Head Start rewarding; he's enjoyed "making my art relevant to little people--they can be very critical--they can show you that you're on or you're off."