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For The Kids : STORYTELLING : The Magic Words : Ane Rovetta tells tales that even young children will enjoy. She also teaches others the tricks of the trade.


When Ane Rovetta tells one of her memorable stories, she jumps around wildly, switching from the character of a coyote, lizard or even a rock.

In fact, the 39-year-old master storyteller is so animated that once she accidentally jumped on a kid in the audience. But her gyrations have also drawn her a prized compliment.

A child came up to her once after a performance and asked, "Are you a teen-ager?"

Rovetta, who brought her magical tales to Ventura last year, will perform in Ventura again on March 27 in Ventura City Hall's atrium. It's a family show that even young children will appreciate.

Rovetta, a science teacher for 16 years, has a way with kids. As a teacher, she wrapped her curriculum around stories to make the subject come alive. When junior high school students learned about Charles Darwin, they also heard a touching story about Darwin's devoutly religious wife who struggled with the dilemma of her marriage and her religion.

Rovetta quit her teaching position four years ago and now spends her time performing or coaching others, especially teachers, on the art of storytelling. A longtime Marin County resident, she has given workshops all over California, in Hawaii and even at the Grand Canyon.

While in Ventura, she will conduct two workshops on March 28 and 29. Last year mostly teachers attended her session here, but the group also included an actor and two grandparents who simply wanted to tell better stories to their grandchildren.

"There is an incredible revival of storytelling in the United States," Rovetta said in a recent telephone interview.

Teachers are using stories in the classroom more, she said. "They are taking a more holistic approach," she said, such as weaving math problems into a unit on dragons.

Rovetta's storytelling skills evolved much the same way. Trained as a zoologist and botanist, she found that teaching park rangers or children about nature was more interesting if she could weave a story around some facts about plants and animals.

She began picking up tidbits about different species. Sometimes there were interesting stories about how some of them got their names.

"It blossomed into telling stories," she said. Then she took it one step further and wove American Indian folklore around her plant and animal information.

During her performances, plants, animals, rocks, even the ocean metamorphose magically into people. She uses different voices for each one and has a range of vocal sound effects that astounds kids. The stories are riveting and funny.

The key character in her repertoire is a coyote, a popular figure in American Indian lore. This coyote is a trickster. He has the power to do something magical and magnificent, like killing a monster. But at the same time he is a silly, flea-covered creature, capable of doing something foolish.

"He is us," she said.

She has other characters--an empty-headed raccoon, a rumor-spreading jellyfish, a giant scorpion that rules California and a monster who swallows everything including the combative coyote, who later contends to others he meets in the monster's stomach that he fully intended to make the digestive voyage.

"I include a lot of silliness," she said. "I don't try to pound them with a lesson."

Most of her stories spring from American Indian lore, but she tries to stay clear of sacred or religious stories.

"There is a lot of controversy about non-Indian people telling these stories," she said. "I try to tell stories that were told generally in the West."

In her workshop, she coaches storytellers on a number of things: remembering the stories and making them their own, using different voices, creating sound effects, using silence.

She tells them about her blunders: the time she told a gripping story about divorce to members of a group she later found out were Catholics.

Rovetta has been telling stories of a sort since she was a child growing up with four siblings in South Carolina. The dinner-time ritual was for each child, one by one, to share the events of his or her day.

"We were encouraged to embellish," she said. "That probably fueled the fire."

Other kid doings:

* The Magical Moonshine Theatre, a touring puppet and mask ensemble, will perform "The Jaguar's Fountain," Wednesday, 7 p.m., at the Thousand Oaks Library, 1401 E. Janss Road. For ages 3 and older. Free.

* A non-competitive talent show for kids will be held Friday, 7 p.m., at the Camarillo Community Center, 1605 E. Burnley St. The event is free.

* The Thousand Oaks Community Center, 2525 Moorpark Road, will be the scene of a family dance Friday featuring tunes and dances from the 1950s and 1960s. Time, 7 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets, $1 for adults, 50 cents for children.


* Ventura's Parks and Recreation Department is sponsoring a performance by storyteller Ane Rovetta, March 27, 7 to 8:30 p.m., in the atrium at Ventura's City Hall, 501 Poli St. Cost is $6 for adults, $3 for children 7 to 12 years old, free for those 6 and under. Preregistration is required. Call 658-4726 for information.

* On March 28, Rovetta will conduct a storytelling workshop for adults at Arroyo Verde Park's Nature Center in Ventura, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A storytelling session around a campfire follows from 6 to 9:30 p.m. The $27 cost includes lunch. Preregistration required.

* A mini-workshop will follow on March 29, 1 to 4 p.m., at Arroyo Verde Park. Includes nature walk. Cost $10. Preregistration required.

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