By Dan Caccavaro
"Close your eyes,"says Allan Kelley, director of Eye in the Ear Audio, to an assembly of elementary school children. "I want you to see with your ears." Then he pops in a cassette recording of story-teller Frances Kelley's colorful dramatization of "The Dutch Boy and the Dike." When the tape is finished and the children have opened their eyes, Kelley asks, "So, have you seen anything?" The kids look at him as if to say, "What do you mean? Our eyes were closed." But then he asks, "What color was the Dutch boy's hair?" and everyone has an answer. "It was blonde," one boy says. "No, no. It was brown," a little girl disagrees. One wise-guy chimes in, "It was green." And Kelley, playing devil's advocate, asks, "Wait a minute, wait a minute. You all heard the same story. How come you all have different answers? Who's right?" They were all right. The children created their own unique versions of the Dutch boy in their imaginations, or "in their ears," as Kelley puts it. That's the idea behind "Stories to Stir the Imagination," a series of three one-hour audiotapes created by Eye in the Ear Audio Publishers of Boston.
"If you have 10 Kids watching the same television show, they'll all see the same thing." Kelley says. "It's sort of frantic passivity." The tapes are designed to get children involved and encourage them to use their imaginations. The children listening to the same story will create 10 unique mental images to accompany it. Audio-actress Frances Kelley uses a repertoire of lively voices-some deep and manly, some high and girlish-to stir the listener's imagination.
Kelley is a certified reader for the Library of Congress Talking Book program and a charter member of WGBH's Spider's Web, a nationally broadcasted chil- dren's story telling hour. She also produced National Public Radio's Imagination Time, a series of half- hour broadcasts designed to bring the powerful images of fables and children's classics to disabled and blind children. Among the stories included in the "Stories to Stir the Imagination" series are The Emperor's New Clothes, The Golden Touch, The Ugly Duckling, and The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Also included is a riotous version of Lewis Carroll's A Mad Tea Party, in which Frances Kelley portrays each voice in the classic, snack-time conversation. Each story is highlighted by music and sound effects.
Eye in the Ear has produced a series of Bible stories entitled, "Living Adventures from the Bible." The six- tape series includes, among other stories, David and Goliath, The Good Samaritan, The Prodigal Son and Jonah and the Whale. Kelley says the company also created a series of historical stories like One Day at Valley Forge, which are intended to bring history alive in the imaginations of young listeners.