GOINGS ON : Family Saga : Jim Cogan carries on a tradition he learned at his grandpa’s knee, melding personal experiences with history.


Jim Cogan’s childhood memories include listening to his grandfather telling vivid fishing stories.

“It’s an Irish tradition. Multi-generational groups get together and invariably someone would strike up a story,” said the Ojai resident. “I remember sitting against his knee and he would puff on his pipe. He was a Chesapeake fisherman. I don’t remember the stories, but I can remember the characters and the smoke.”

Clearly Cogan has his grandfather--and his grandmother, his parents, some teachers and a Catholic school nun named Sister Anne--to thank for his appreciation of storytelling. It’s an appreciation that three years ago became his livelihood.

Cogan (or Quijote, as he calls himself when he’s telling tales) will be one of four storytellers at the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum Friday evening. His stories focus on “history, mystery and the oral tradition” of American Indian, Latino, African, European and Eastern European cultures. He will be joined by Michael Katz (Jewish stories), Nadja Forest (classical stories with contemporary characters) and Edwin Shaw (Edgar Allen Poe pieces with musical accompaniment).


“I tend to do so much of my work on history, mythology and legend. I’ve always been fascinated by that,” Cogan said.

The most popular stories, he said, are those to which audience members can relate--"a story that focuses upon a human challenge, whether it’s an adventure or an inward journey, that deals with values, struggle, conflict, that people can feel a parallel to.”

For example, as he tells it, the swift Greek goddess Atalanta achieved a rare feat by dominating the male gods in physical contests. She was driven to succeed, said Cogan, because she had always felt the need to prove herself to her father, who was disappointed that she was a female. “How many women today want to prove themselves,” he asked.

Cogan said he often throws personal experiences into historical stories. And he tells tales straight from his own life. “Like ‘Eugene,’ ” he said. “It’s a story about growing up in the 1950s with all the prejudice and all the things that fifth-graders do. It’s no different today. Thirty years, 40 years, has not changed the treatment fifth-graders give each other. The real truth of the story can be found in every continent.”


Friday’s show will begin at 7 p.m. General admission is $8. On Saturday, Katz and Forest will tell children’s stories from 2 to 3 p.m. Admission is $3 (adults) and $2 (children). CAF is located at 653 Paseo Nuevo, second floor. For more information call 966-5373.

The Community Arts Music Assn. of Santa Barbara will host its second show of the 1991-92 season tonight, when it brings the 57-year-old Prague Symphony Orchestra to the Arlington Theater. The Orchestra, directed by Petr Altrichter, will perform Saint-Saens’ “Concerto No. 2 in G Minor” featuring pianist Elisso Bolkvadze, Smetana’s “Wallenstein’s Camp” and Dvorak’s “Symphony No. 9.” Tickets range from $18 to $48. The concert will begin at 8 p.m. There will be a preview lecture from 6:45 to 7:40 p.m., free to ticket-holders. For tickets call 963-4408.

UC Santa Barbara’s Fall Music Series program sponsored by the Department of Music will be going full bore this week at the Lotte Lehman Concert Hall. There’s the Faculty and Student Soloists Sunday at 3 p.m. ($8), the University Jazz Ensemble Monday at 8 p.m. ($5) and the Percussion Ensemble Tuesday at 8 p.m. (no charge). In addition to these in-house performances, the music department invited the Fine Arts Brass Quintet of Los Angeles to perform at the Trinity Episcopal Church, 1500 State St., Friday at 8 p.m. General admission is $12. For tickets, or for more information concerning any of these concerts, call 893-3535.

Santa Barbara’s Victoria Street Theater will show the Canadian film “Strangers in Good Company” Sunday at 2 p.m. The screening will serve as a sneak preview of the movie, which will officially open on Thanksgiving Day. “Strangers in Good Company” is the story of a group of elderly women whose bus breaks down outside an abandoned farmhouse. While stranded there they share their life experiences with one another. Show time is 2 p.m. The theater is located at 33 Victoria St.

(SOLD OUT) Trained in Shakespeare, actor Patrick Stewart will be back at UCSB’s Campbell Hall this weekend with his popular one-man interpretation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Because his one show last year was such a success, Stewart has added a second performance this time around. Saturday’s performance will begin at 8 p.m., Sunday’s at 2 p.m. General admission is $18, $16 and $14. To reserve a seat call 893- 3535.

The Santa Barbara Oratorio Chorale will open its seventh season with performances Saturday and Sunday at the First Presbyterian Church, 21 E. Constance Ave. The program will include Schubert’s “Mass in E Flat” and Bach’s “Wachet Auf!” The chorale is led by conductor Phillip McLendon. General admission is $9. For more information call 684-7686.