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Christopher Leebrick will soon perform 'The Tell-Tale Heart,' other pieces at library event

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER LEEBRICK - Chrisopher Leebrick will soon perform The Tell-Tale Heart and several other spooky pieces at the Estacada Public Library.

Christopher Leebrick has been telling stories since he was a middle school student. As a member of the "Troupe of Tellers" at Roosevelt Jr. High School in Eugene, Leebrick and a group of fellow youths traveled to elementary schools, nursing homes and libraries to practice their craft.

Leebrick will perform for Estacada audiences on Friday, Oct. 19. "The Tell-Tale Heart and other Chillers" will take place from 7-8 p.m. at the Estacada Public Library, 835 N.W. Wade St. Though the program was created for adults, youths ages 14 and older may attend with a guardian.

Leebrick said fall is an ideal time for spooky stories, describing it as "Poe season."

"I always read a new (piece by Edgar Allan Poe) every year," he added. "(When I'm performing "The Tell-Tale Heart,") I pick at least one new piece to absorb."

The Estacada News recently talked to Leebrick about storytelling, his influences and Poe's writing.

ESTACADA NEWS: What was being part of the "Troupe of Tellers" like?

CHRISTOPHER LEEBRICK: It was one of the coolest things. We got to leave school and travel around. It was a really cool experience, and at the end of the year I felt like a veteran performer. By the end of the year, I thought, "Wow, I can do this." We all got to know each other's stories, and we were all really supportive of each other.

EN: What are some stories that have influenced you?

LEEBRICK: The most challenging one to perform is the story of Jesus from the Bible. It's challenging and wonderful, because I believe that story. To tell a story that's part of your faith and beliefs is a cool experience to have. People respond in very different ways. Mid story, I looked at the audience and two people were next to each other and one was sleeping and one was crying.

"The Tell-Tale Heart" is one that I've lived with for years. I was really serious about working on it as a college student. My first real audience was my roommate and his date. I said, 'Hey, before you go out, do you want to hear a spooky story?" They ended up getting married, so it must have been a memorable first date for them.

EN: What are some of your favorite stories to perform?

LEEBRICK: I love "The Tell-Tale Heart." It's definitely a challenging task master. I never take it for granted. I love Dr. Seuss, and I delve into Shakespeare every year. I direct a student production. I'm a pretty lucky guy. I work in three genres — Poe, Dr. Seuss and Shakespeare.

EN: You're involved with both acting and storytelling. How do those practices influence one another?

LEEBRICK: I'm writing a book called "The Art and Craft of Telling Stories," and part of what I posit is the idea that storytelling is the original form of theater. Good actors can become good storytellers, and vice versa. When I was in my first professional play, I realized the things I was learning from storytelling were applicable to plays.

The best theater directors have said on opening night, "Go out there and tell them the story." One of the things storytelling really gives an actor is a sense of "Am I taking the audience with me as I go?" That's key, especially with Shakespeare. The audience wants to go on a journey, but they might worry they won't because Shakespeare is intimidating.

You have the experience of playing characters even in the midst of a story you're telling. If I'm in a play, telling a story and then in a play again, I'll think, 'Oh, this is easy because I only have to be one character."

EN: What's the upcoming event in Estacada going to be like?

LEEBRICK: "The Tell-Tale Heart" is the headliner, and then there will be a discussion of Poe. I'll tell one or two non-Poe spooky stories that have elements that would have been appreciated by Poe. Then I'll finish with a piece by Poe.

EN: Tell us about the elements you bring your rendition of "The Tell-Tale Heart."

LEEBRICK: The character is talking to the audience, and whoever's there, they're the audience my character talks to. He's on a mission to explain himself. There's lots of direct eye contact, and I'll play off people in the room.

There's lots of energy coming off the page. I try to bring out the dynamic of the piece, and the richness of the language. Poe is such a rich writer, and it feels like there's always more. After all these years, I still find little things.

I want to connect with the audience and bring them along in the story. The audience is there to hear a spooky story. I'll take them on a ride — a good, spooky ride. It's like a roller coaster.

EN: What makes a good story?

LEEBRICK: We have to care about it. It has to connect with us as humans. And in the end it needs to tell the truth. A story can have a good conflict but if it glorifies evil, I don't think people like that. "The Tell-Tale Heart" is a very moral story in the end.

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