Q&A: Meg Beach, director of the "Myth Adventures" children's performing arts camp at the Clayton Center for the Arts

A veteran writer, dancer, and storyteller, Meg Beach will direct the "Myth Adventures" children's performing arts camp at the Clayton Center for the Arts. It begins June 9 and children can attend one or all four weeks.

You do storytelling all year ‘round, not just for the camp?

I am currently doing a storytelling tour in Blount County public school libraries and I work year-round with Community School of the Arts in downtown Knoxville. I frequently use mythology, fairy tales, and folk legends as a starting point for the kids to make up their own stories. It's a technique I've used most of the 30-some-odd years I've been a teaching artist.

What's your mythology background?

I started reading stories from Greek myths when I was in elementary school. All my life, I've read myths from all kinds of different cultures. I was watching Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers' The Power of Myth—again—when you called!

Do any of the myths you deal with have something East Tennesseans can particularly relate to?

Of course! I use Cherokee mythology in every storytelling I do. I wrote a script several years ago for Circle Modern Dance's children's programming that incorporated mythology from the Greek, the Cherokee, and the African. I absolutely use myths from right here in these hills.

Whose idea was the camp? How'd you get involved?

This is the third year the Clayton Center has offered a summer arts camp and the second year I've directed the camp. I was literally inspired by the Muses featured on beautiful tiles on the courtyard at the Clayton Center and thought, "Mythology!"

When you tell stories that involve myths, which one do young kids relate to most? How about teenagers?

The little fellows seem to really love the story of Persephone and Pluto and Ceres. They really relate strongly to the mother searching for her child. And I use the Nathaniel Hawthorne version, which has Pluto seeking a daughter rather than a wife. The older kids really enjoyed the story of Orpheus and Euridyce—the love lost, the heartbreak, the romance.

Do you do just the classics, or urban myths too?

I stick pretty much with the classics, but I skip from culture to culture. Orpheus may be all tragic, but everybody loves "How Grandmother Spider Stole the Sun," which is a Cherokee myth.

Just for the record, what's your favorite urban myth?

I guess I'd have to say I'm more into old wives' tales than urban myths—I'm a country gal from way back. My favorite of them is the one about how all the birds choose their mates by Valentine's Day.

God or goddess you can relate to most?

Since I took the Muses for my inspiration and have named the classes in the camp after the appropriate muse, I've become really fond of Calliope, which is the class I'll be teaching. She's the Muse of epic poetry and literature.

Favorite myth?

It's really hard to pick just one, but I'd have to say, if hard -pressed, the story of Cupid and Psyche. But then, I'm a sucker for a love story that transcends death.

What do you think of the show Mythbusters?

I've only watched it a couple of times and it just wasn't what I hoped it would be. I feel there's a whole new mythology being created out in the "ether" of the Internet these days. I can't wait to see what the kids are going to come up with this summer. Maybe they'll be using classics or maybe they'll be writing the mythology of the future!

Pre-registration deadline is May 25; for more information, visit claytonartscenter.com or call 981-8263.