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The Johnson Children Interview Playwright John Olive about “Tell Me a Story In The Dark”

A cold afternoon in early January 2015:


Patrick Johnson: How will this book help readers?


John Olive: Readers of Tell Me A Story In The Dark will understand that they can do it. That telling wonderful bedtime stories is easy. Something magical happens in a dark bedroom and all tellers have to do is tap into it.


Charlotte Johnson: What else does the book do?


JO: It presents stories! Many many stories. Myths, nonsense stories, legends, tall tales, religious stories. There’s a large section on fairy tales. In my opinion, fairy tales are the primo type of story in the dark.


The way the book works, readers read the stories, and then they make them their own, and tell them to their children. You never memorize a bedtime story. You make it your own, and then tell it. The book is great fun.


Virginia Johnson: What’s in the Third Part of the book?


JO: The Third Part is called The Greatest Gift, Stories You Make Up Yourself. It provides readers with an easy, what I call a “1-2-3 Method” for making up stories.


CJ: Is it really easy to make up stories?


JO: It is. There’s two ways to do it: you can start with an idea. What if a kid had magic beans and he grew a huge beanstalk? That’s an idea, and then you would make up story events: the ogre, the ogre’s wife, Cloudland, etcetera. Or, number two, there’s the character approach, where you come up with a character and think about him. What if there was a kid named Jack. Maybe… he had to sell a cow? Maybe… he wasn’t too bright and some sharpie gave him magic beans? The grand advantage of the idea approach is that you can discover the story as you create it.


PJ: What’s the significance of light vs. dark?


JO: What?


PJ: Tell Me A Story In The Dark.


JO: Oh! The central idea is that the teller turn off the lights. You don’t read the stories. You tell them. It’s all about creating ancient storytelling magic in your kid’s bedroom. It’s a wonderful thing you can do for your children.


VJ: What’s your favorite story?


JO: Gee, I don’t know, I like all the stories. But I guess I’m especially fond of “Ralph The Sad Sad Ghost.” It was the first story I made up. It always makes me think about my son when was in diapers.


CJ: What’s the book about?


JO: Bedtime stories.

Like the article? We bet you’ll love this book:

Tonight, don’t read your child a story. Instead, dim the light, lie down, and create storytelling magic. Weave a spell that will enchant your child. . .
Written by an award-winning playwri…

Tell Me a Story in the Dark

John Olive

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John Olive is a widely produced (Manhattan Theatre Club, Old Globe, ACT/Seattle, South Coast Rep, the Guthrie, and many others) and award-winning (Fellowships from the Bush and McKnight Foundations, from National Endowment For The Arts, a Kennedy Cen… Read More


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