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String Things; Stories, Games, and Fun! by BarbaraSchutz-Gruber (videotape) Self-Published, 1995.46 mins., $19.95 + $3 S/H
When I was a kid, the only string figures I knew were the sequence which comprised the game Cat's Cradle. Imagine my delight, when, as an adult, I discovered Camilla Gryski's Wonderful books of string figures published by Kids Can Press in -Toronto.
Now thanks to this tape, children and adults can watch figures being formed as part of stories told by Michigan teller Barbara Schutz-Gruber.
They can also learn from her how to form four of the figures she uses.
The stories Schutz-Gruber tells come from a variety of cultures, which is fitting since string figures are found among most of the indigenous peoples of the world. She tells a fable, an Anansi story, two stories about Maui, an old English riddle, and two original tales.
The instructional part of the tape begins with directions on how to make a string. The recommended material is continued macrame cord -much easier to come by than the leather thong, tree fibre, or braided human hair used in the past by various peoples. Each of the four figures she teaches is demonstrated slowly, with clear instructions, then repeated. Of course, with the miracle of instant replay the viewer can watch sections over and over, or even pause the tape until a sequence is clear. After the figures are taught, some young assistants demonstrate various ways to play cat's cradle, including a variety of endings to the game.
A simple background and subtle lighting changes make the staging effective. The green coloured string shows upnicely against the teller’s purple sweater, and the use of two
cameras, and long and short shots add visual variety. When the figures are being taught, overhead shots are used as well. The tape won an Honor Award from StorytellingWorld Magazine. Order from the teller at 2855 Kimberlv, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104 (313) 751-5118
The Second Story Review, Vol 3, No. 2, June 1998