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Performance Topics For Children

available from Doug Lipman

Doug Lipman is a highly experienced storyteller and musician who can offer performances in a variety of formats.

Doug will be happy to create a program specifically for your needs.
Or you can choose from over 40 different performance topics, divided into the following areas of interest:

Around the World Tales
Celebrating Differences
Feelings & Self-Esteem
History Comes Alive
Learning From Folktales
Themes to Think About
Through the Year

Performance topics for children

Around the World Tales

Doug gives a sparkle to these fresh versions of international folktales.

"He has an abiding respect for the culture & traditional roots of folk songs & stories...and deep personal immersion in the themes of his stories" --Cambridge Chronicle

An African Folktale Safari
Grade: K-6
Come along on a journey of the imagination:
  • to Ghana for a song about the children's favorite bus driver
  • to South Africa for a version of "Snow White;"
  • to East Africa for a story about two sisters who save their village from famine.
Sung and told with drum and guitar, these stories and songs convey the vitality and variety of African cultures.

Animal Tales of Many Lands
Grade: K-6
No tales are more universal--nor more universally loved--than folktales with animal characters.

Doug's collection of animal songs and stories presents the characteristic wit and fancy of many cultures--in a way that respects the variety of cultures and still makes clear their similarities.

Around the World Tales
Grade: K-9
Through these fascinating stories, children can now hear how certain plots have travelled around the world:
  • An African "Snow White"
  • An Egyptian "Rapunzel"
  • A bird that can't be killed in stories from
    • Thailand
    • Africa, and
    • Louisiana.
(Doug will choose stories from the above list that are appropriate for your students.)

Based on Doug's commissioned research for the Smithsonian, these tales highlight the similarities and unique contributions of diverse world cultures.

The Days of Jack
Grade: 2-9
Everyone knows the English "Jack and the Beanstalk," but not everyone knows his American cousin, who stars in dozens of stories--getting himself in trouble with his mouth, and out of trouble with his head!

Doug has studied these tales with North Carolina master teller Ray Hicks, designated by the National Endowment for the Arts as a "living folk treasure." Five-string banjo and Appalachian dulcimer complete the cultural journey.

Jewish Fairy Tales
Grade: K-9
Jewish fairy tales have the adventure and reassuring outcomes of all fairy tales, but they also have the lessons and emphases typical of Jewish culture. From "The Rich and Poor Sisters" of Eastern Europe to "The Language of the Animals" of Persia, these stories--spiced with guitar and button-accordion--present the emotional and geographic range of Jewish tradition.
Irish Tales and Songs
Grade: 3-9
Irish culture has a unique place in our world: it's an ancient tradition that has been preserved in the Gaelic enclaves of the Irish countryside, and recorded by hundreds of amateur and professional collectors.

Avoiding stereotypes and the "stage Irishman," Doug presents authentic tales of cleverness, adventure and transformation--interwoven with beautiful Celtic songs accompanied by guitar, flute, and melodeon (Irish button-accordion).

Monsters Everywhere!
Grade: K-4
Whether it's the Chinese Nung Kua Ma, an Appalachian giant lion or the Jewish giant Og, monsters have delightfully localized characteristics, and a universal appeal to students' imaginations.

These stories teach about other cultures--while empowering children in their struggles against the real and imagined monsters of their own world.

Performance topics for children

Celebrating Differences

Doug believes strongly in the value of our individual and cultural differences. He has assembled dozens of stories and songs that enjoyably higlight our differences--in the context of our even greater similarities.

Since we ARE all different, it follows that:

  • to be safe, it must be safe for us to be different.
  • to feel valued, we need a climate that values differences
  • to contribute our best to society, we must not hide our uniqueness.
Fortunately, stories can help create a joyful climate of acceptance and respect!

Everyone is Different
Grade: K-6
As similar as humans are, we are each unique. We have different bodies, interests, and abilities. These stories and songs give children permission to value their own uniqueness--so they can value that of others, as well.

Pulling Together
Grade: K-9
Cooperation is one of the most powerful concepts in the world--and these stories make it concrete and understandable. Villagers learn to work together, animals help each other, and four siblings learn to lend their unique gifts to the good of the whole.

Strange Planet
Grade: K-4
What better way to learn about the fundamental similarities of all people than by journeying to outer space--where the creatures are really different!

These stories and songs use participation to involve students in the delightful fantasy, as well as in the cooperative problem-solving.

We Are Rainbows
Grade: K-6
Using the metaphor of the rainbow, these spirited songs and stories encourage students to rejoice in human diversity.

Doug's participation stories, carefully adapted for each age group, help us enjoy all colors of our multi-cultural world.

Welcoming the Stranger
Grade: K-6
Unlike the many stories that portray heroes who meet strangers only to vanquish them, these stories show the value of the stranger.

After all, the one who is different may be able to do what no one else can!

Performance topics for children

Feelings & Self-Esteem

Doug's storytelling has a warm, reassuring quality that is perfect for these programs.

Stories can bring us into the imaginative realm of someone else's experience, and therefore can help children understand the worth of every individual.

Children respond deeply to these tales of acceptance and hope.

The Amazing Teddy Bear
Grade: K-4
In these stories with songs, children encounter difficult situations:
  • a too busy father,
  • a fight with a friend,
  • problems learning to read,
  • name-calling by other children,
  • a mother struggling to meet many demands.
The Amazing Teddy Bear sings songs to help each child find an elegant way to respond to her or his difficulty.
The Best Way to Be
Grade: K-4
No matter your age, your sex, your ethnic background, or your interests, the Best Way to the way you are!

Whether it's a girl finding her own approach to reading or the parts of the body learning to value each other, these songs and stories create a climate of self-acceptance--and therefore of acceptance of others.

How Jack Learned to Say 'No'
Grade: 2-7
Jack has a problem: people talk him into things. In this adventure tale of peer pressure--acted out in Doug's interactions with the audience--Jack lives out the consequences of his actions.

By the end of his encounter with the magic purse and hat, students will cheer when Jack finally says, "No!"

Small Is Powerful
Grade: K-6
In a society that seems to glorify bigness--from basketball players to corporations--the child can see her/his smallness as a barrier to competence and empowerment.

After hearing these stories and songs, though, your students will see smallness as:

  • a gift,
  • an opportunity, and
  • one of the varieties of greatness.

Stories & Songs About Feelings
Grade: K-4
In these programs, Doug uses participation, dramatic situations, and gentle encouragement to focus on feelings.

Children use songs to discuss what it's like to be afraid or angry, etc., and then they hear stories about characters who experience the same emotions.

Want to Be Friends?
Grade: K-9
In these programs, Doug explores friendship--the joys and pains so close to children's hearts. No one can hear these delightful stories and songs without feeling both more appreciation for old friends and more confidence in making new ones.

Performance topics for children

History Comes Alive

Doug chooses historical stories that not only keep the interest of various ages of children, but leave them inspired and determined to take charge of the world we are bequeathing to them.

These stories are appropriate anytime, but each of these programs can also be tied to a particular holiday or season (Holocaust Remembrance Day, Halloween or Thanksgiving, Black History Month, The Fourth of July), like the programs described in Through the Year.

"A thorough and dedicated scholar as well as master teacher and performer." -- Maureen Kennedy, New England Conservatory of Music

The Ballad of Mauthausen
Grade: 6-12
The centerpiece of this unique performance is a song cycle by composer Mikis Theodorakis, based on lyrics by a Greek partisan who was an inmate at the Mauthausen concentration camp.

Each of the four songs embodies a human reaction to tradedy:

  1. grief
  2. anger
  3. despair
  4. hope.
Depending on the audience, Doug presents one of several versions of this program:
  • In one, he punctuates the song cycle with stories from Theodorakis's life.
  • In others, he tells Jewish or world folktales that each express one of the four emotions called up by the songs.
As a result, this program combines the histories of the Nazi holocaust and post-World War II Greece with universal elements of human reaction to evil.

The Ghost in the Tower
Grade: 6-12
Who is the ghost speaking in the Miles Standish monument in Duxbury, Massachusetts?

By the end of this chilling story, we realize we have been hearing the words of Squanto, the last of his tribe and the "helpful Indian" described by the Plymouth colonists. But we hear the side of Squanto's story not told in conventional texts, a tale of:

  • kidnapping
  • plague
  • ecological transformation.
Leaving us with a warning and a choice, the Ghost in the Tower combines history, ecology and adventure!

A Night in the Water
Grade: 6-12
In a historic collaboration between black and white that changed the course of the Civil War, a firebrand Abolitionist from Massachusetts was asked to head the first regiment of freed slaves. In this program, Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson himself takes you on his daring solo expedition into enemy territory. As fear grips him, he shares with you the moving stories and songs he learned from his African-American soldiers--as well as the courage that they taught him, and that saves his life.

Paul Cuffe
Grade: 4-12
A young boy living in revolutionary Massachusetts goes to sea aboard a blockade runner--and is captured by the British, jailed in New York, and released to wander home. Building his own boat, he is attacked by pirates; but then....

This true adventure story takes an unexpected twist when Paul and his brother petition their town for the ability to vote--because, unlike their neighbors, the Cuffe's are African-Americans.

In this exciting program, your students will be exposed to the romance and ironies of Revolutionary history--in a way that they'll talk about for months to come.

Performance topics for children

Learning From Folktales

Folktales, passed down through generations of oral tradition, have stood the test of time. They capture interest, and they carry deep meanings.
Doug has assembled programs that highlight some aspect of what folktales can teach us, whether:

  • values
  • strategies for thinking
  • the process of oral transmission, or
  • the depiction of a meaningful character.

The Beggar's Dream: Folktales About Money
Grade: 6-12
Doug has collected multi-cultural, traditional tales that embody folk wisdom about money. In these stories, you'll meet:
  • the lazy peasant who insisted that money would come to his door
  • the rich man who tried to buy forgiveness
  • the dying mother who wanted to conceal her money until her daughter learned wisdom
  • still more characters dealing with the paradoxes of money and wealth.
Once your students have brought these characters into their imaginations, they will be in a position to question and shape their own attitudes toward money--and, therefore, toward much of life.
Exercise Your Mind!
Grade: K-4
This program makes you think! Challenge your mental abilities to imagine, remember, and solve problems. All storytelling causes you to flex your "imagination muscles," but these stories and songs contain imagination games, challenges to memory, and riddles. Cognitive activity has never been so much fun!
A Folktale Safari
Grade: 2-12
Join Doug for an international adventure tracking the oral tradition.

Doug will follow a folktale on its journey of transformation from one culture to another. Along the way, your students will face the classic questions of folklore science, such as, "How could the same story show up in two distant cultures? Could it be coincidence, or must there have been cultural contact?" Your students will become fascinated, not only by the folktale variants, but also by testing their own investigative thinking. (Preferred equipment: blackboard and classroom map of the world.)

The Legends of the Baal Shem Tov
Grade: 6-12
Shrouded in legend, Israel ben Eliezer was born in 1700 in the Carpathian mountains. He became known as the Baal Shem Tov--a legendary wise man and storyteller with the ability to see deep into people's souls. Doug tells stories that emphasize the Baal Shem Tov's:
  • compassion
  • moral force, and
  • ability to reach even the most stubborn wrong-doer.
Here is a perfectly non-violent hero!

Leviathan & the Fish-and other Jewish wonder tales
Grade: K-5
Leviathan, the ruler of the sea, promised to save you from the teeth and claws of the Giant Sea Lizard--but what will you do if he doesn't? With story and song, Doug takes you into the world of midrash (the Jewish tradition of composing stories to explain other stories) for an underwater adventure about independence & tolerance.

The Sword and the Braid
Grade: 5-12
Men and women help each other become their truest selves!
  • An Egyptian Rapunzel takes an active role in the prince's story;
  • a Jewish "Beauty and the Beast" becomes a parable about appearances;
  • in all cases, they learn to leave behind both the hereditary sword and the imprisoning ladder-of-hair.
From the surprising wisdom of folk tales come these stories in which male and female characters strive against narrowly-defined roles for themselves and for each other.

Performance topics for children

Themes to Think About

Doug takes issues that are close to his heart, then develops stories that portray their essential themes.
These programs prove that the quickest way to the intellect is sometimes through the imagination.

Grade: K-9
Cooperation is an essential skill for success in school, in family life, and in the workplace. In these stories and story games, people work together to solve problems that no individual could have solved alone.

Most of all, this program exposes your students to a mode of thought: replacing solitary heroics with teamwork in which everyone wins.

Moments of Mystery
Grade: K-6
Whether eerie, bizarre or just unusual, these are the stories and songs that keep you wondering. You may help solve an ecological mystery or a riddle, or just wonder about the strange events--but your curiousity will be engaged as fully as your imagination!

Perspectives: Point-Of-View Stories
Grade: 5-12
Understanding someone else's point of view is a crucial skill for getting along in the world. This fascinating program promotes that skill through stories that surprise us, with:
  • shifting perspectives
  • unexpected narrators
  • telling the same incident from more than one viewpoint.
These are tales of the imagination that stimulate the intellect.

Stories of Freedom
Grade: K-9
Doug's stories explore the concept of freedom, exposing its many sides. By the end of this program, your students will have experienced the ideas of personal freedom, social freedom--even freedom from greed and addictions. Without needing to "preach," these stories shed warm light on a timely and complex theme.

Stories of Peace
Grade: K-9
In these stories and songs, Doug presents visions of peace and peacemaking. The program gives us glimpses of several aspects of peace, including self-pride and affirmation, acceptance & valuing of others, and non-violent conflict resolution. These tales introduce us--through the world of the imagination--to the special kinds of heroism required of a peacemaker.

Tales of Nurturing Men
Grade: 6-12
We are beginning to realize that, just as girls need more than Sleeping Beauty, boys, too, are harmed by the stereotypes of the male role.

In this program, Doug presents stories from several cultures that portray men outside the macho stereotype, men who:

  • can be powerful without losing the ability to feel
  • use their strength, cleverness and wisdom for the good of all.
These stories will empower and encourage girls and boys alike!

Tales of Strong Women
Grade: 4-12
Not all folktales show women as either passive or evil.

Doug has assembled an exciting collection of stories from around the world, stories that show women who:

  • take action without losing their heads
  • take power in the world without losing their ability to nurture and love.
These stories will inspire your students--both male and female--to be all that they can be.

There Must Be A Way: Resolving Conflicts
Grade: K-9
As we grow up, we develop a repertoire of responses to situations involving personal or social conflict.

Unlike the repetitive plots from TV shows, these stories and songs expand that repertoire by giving examples of respectful, non-violent resolutions--even where it seems that none is possible.

Whether the conflicts are solved through persistence, cleverness, cooperation, or a shift in point of view, this is education for the real world-via the world of the imagination!

Performance topics for children

Through the Year

Each of these programs is especially appropriate for a particular season or holiday, from harvest and Halloween through Martin Luther King day, Black History Month, and Earth Day.

See also the programs in History Comes Alive.

Imagination Conquers the Monsters
Grade: K-2
Young children sometimes become confused and frightened during the Halloween season, as reality and fantasy become intertwined. In this program, Doug encourages children to tell about what frightens them and what makes them feel safe--as all together they work to make the monsters go away.
Confrontations With the Supernatural
Grade: 3-9
Give older children the spine-tinglers they crave--with a difference! This challenging, multi-cultural program of eerie tales is rich with deeper meanings that spring from the folk cultures that created them.

Giving Thanks
Grade: K-6
Sometimes playful, sometimes inspiring, this program highlights the universal nature of the Thanksgiving holiday. Through stories and participation songs, Doug first gives a humorous look at social "thank you" rituals, then helps them share their deep sense of gratitude and wonder toward the world.

Hannukah, Kwanza, Christmas
Grade: K-9
Doug captures the excitement of three of the most joyful festivals of winter. Using original stories and songs based on traditional lore from around the world, this special holiday offering-without being "religious"-conveys the spirit of these celebrations in a way that all can share.

Who Stole the Dawn?
December, January
Grade: 2-7
An African mystery tale for the winter darkness, this program extolls the virtures of cooperation, creativity, and persistence. An African village is plunged into everlasting darkness, leaving its king with the responsibility for figuring out what happened. Whenever the king gets stumped, he turns to the village storyteller. From her parables, he must understand what to do next-and then journey to the sky to assure the dawn's return. Along the way, your students will be introduced to dilemma tales-stories that don't end, but leave the audience thinking and debating several carefully balanced points of view.

Night Riders
January, February
Grade: 6-12
An exciting blend of history and folklore with a surprise ending. This original tale-based on true experiences and ghost tales of the Civil War South-is a perfect springboard for discussions of Reconstruction, racism, and the social reasons ghost tales are told. First, there are the chilling ghost stories. Even more chilling is the realization of who these Night Riders really are....
Earth Day Stories
Grade: K-6
Ecological consciousness begins with a heightened awareness of our personal relationship to the world around us. From the adventures of Tuggy Green, Ecological Investigator, to the animals who band together to save the sun, these gentle stories and songs are designed to evoke love, respect, and wonder for the beautiful, fragile world that we interact with every day.

Performance topics for children



Doug Lipman

152 Wenonah Road, Longmeadow, MA 01106 U.S.A.
Phone: (781) 837-1940
Alternate Phone (rings the same line): (413) 754-6728
Fax (toll-free): (888) 300-6665

This page was last updated on Friday, November 28, 2003
Copyright©2003 Doug Lipman