Brian Shoor has spent nearly 30 years working (and playing) in Yosemite. No matter which professional hat he’s wearing — ski patrol leader, May Lake High Sierra Camp manager or emergency medical technician, to name a few — Brian focuses on helping his community and creating positive experiences for people in the park.
During his decades in Yosemite, Brian has also earned a reputation as a captivating storyteller: He started weaving yarns when he first arrived in the park in the early 1990s, and honed his craft during summers at May Lake. (As Brian notes, his storytelling career stretches back even further: “I’ve been telling stories since I was a little kid. Just ask my parents. They’ll say I’ve told some ‘whoppers’!”) This spring, Brian brought his talent to the Yosemite Theater stage in the Valley for the first time to perform an original one-man show: “A Room of Rascals: School in Yosemite’s Stagecoach Days.”
1. What has inspired you to keep telling stories for the past three decades?
The more I learn about the history of Yosemite, the clearer the whole image becomes. I want to paint a perfectly realistic picture of what life was like. The people I learn about are like the colors of the palette; the more colors, the more realistic you can make the image. Oh, also, it’s fun!
2. You’ve spent years telling stories at Yosemite camps. How does telling a story on stage compare to spinning tales around a campfire?
At the Yosemite Theater, the storytelling has become a multimedia extravaganza! Well, maybe not quite that grand but it now has related images projected behind me and even some audio. The venue also creates an air of professionalism. Campfires create a more intimate atmosphere which I try to bring to the theater audience.
3. What’s something surprising that you learned from your research for “A Room of Rascals”?
Don’t leave your research materials at 9,300 feet during the winter! I have all my materials at May Lake, and they were under 20 feet of snow when I was asked to create this show.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Mariposa Superintendent of Schools in the late 1880s was a woman, Mary Eggenhoff. She was very qualified for the position since she had taught for many years in Mariposa County. Also, she was able to preview the position since her husband was the previous superintendent.
4. Through your show, you get to journey back to the late 19th century. If you could jump in a wormhole and experience another era (past or future), which period would you choose and why?
That’s a tough question! It’s easy to have a romantic image of the past. I think I might be interested in Yosemite after World War II, in the late ’40s and early ’50s. The country was very united and trusting. The park had more recreation activities back then, including some we don’t approve of today.
Of course, the future might be interesting too. I wouldn’t mind hoverboarding over Mono Meadow and taking some runs on Mt. Starr King!
5. What’s a Yosemite story you’d like to share with audiences but haven’t had a chance to tell yet?
Altogether, I have about 12 stories ready to share. I’m most excited about a rough outline of a love story going through my mind. It has some mystery and unfortunately, some tragedy too.
6. When you’re not on stage or spinning stories elsewhere in the park, how do you like to spend time in Yosemite?
I work a lot! Besides storytelling I work on our local ambulance, run the ski patrol in the winter and manage May Lake High Sierra Camp in the summer. I also have my own business teaching first aid and CPR, and I do some guiding. During my off-time, my favorite thing to do is sneak in a run or a longer adventure with my wife, Jenn.
Catch Brian’s storytelling in person this year at the Yosemite Theater! He’s performing “A Room of Rascals: School in Yosemite’s Stagecoach Days” on select dates through late October. The family-friendly show follows the antics and adventures of a group of schoolkids growing up in Yosemite Valley in the late 1800s.
(All photos courtesy of Brian Shoor.)