Sunday, October 12, 2008

Day Five - The Long Trip Home

Day five was one big blur. The days are so long at the Festival there really isn’t time to doo much else. I had planned on doing some homework and posting to my blog, but it never happened. When I returned home I was tired and didn’t feel quite right. Needless to say, by the end of the week I had a sorry case of the flu with a 100+ temperature. I called to cancel my Friday acupuncture appointment only to find that acupuncture is used to treat colds and flu.

It's a week later, I've finally caught up on my posts and I can sit up straight for longer than 15 minutes at a time!

Attending the National Storytelling Festival is an amazing experience. I think we are very fortunate to be able to bring some of the best storytellers in the world to Multnomah County. As we work with storytelling more and more we realize how much it intertwines every aspect of our lives, from catching up with a realtive to developing a new video game. It just makes me want to go out and tell a story!

And you never know when you'll make new friends!
I can't go without saying how helpful the Portland Storytellers' Guild has been over the past several years as volunteers for Tapestry and as a storytelling resource.
Good bye! Until my next storytelling adventure!

Day Four - The Home Stretch

Doug Elliot, Brenda Wong Aoki, Onawumi Jean Moss, Bil Lepp (again), Waddie Mitchell, Minton Sparks, Bil Lepp, Michael Reno Harrell, Bil Lepp (like I said, I could listed to Bil all day), Onawumi Jean Moss and Ben Haggarty.
Erica Lann-Clark was a delightful teller and in someways reminded me of Anne Louise Sterry. Many of her stories evolve around her Jewish heritage and searching for purpose. I’m very happy to say that Anne Louise will be one of the featured regional tellers this year at Tapestry. I was lucky to get a preview of her storytelling at the OLA/SSD Conference in Newport this year.
Carmen Deedy, John McCutcheon, Peter Cook and Waddie Mitchell.
I could not think of a more perfect way to end the storytelling festival than by hearing a story from Kathryn Windham. I was so surprised the first time I heard her and have fallen in love with her manner and tenor. Could it be that I have family history deeply embedded in the south, it could be?

I was lucky enough to be able to go to Georgia and Alabama in the summers for brief visits throughout my childhood and I still have close relatives that live in the greater Atlanta area. My mother, originally from the south, makes Portland her home with her husband, only a recent transplant to the Pacific Northwest. Having lived in the west for so long and having a husband who was born and raised in Oregon, and whose father was also from Oregon, my children don’t quite have that same connection to the south that I do. If there was anywhere I would rather live than Oregon, it would be Eastern Tennessee.

Day Three – Getting a Second Wind

I have to be honest and say that I almost totally forgot to post anything for the third day. It all starts running together after a while.
The day started with a story by Ben Haggarty. He told several “Jack” stories over the course of the weekend and this one was especially good. Just in time for the holiday hoopla and another distribution of A Nightmare Before Christmas.
Immediately after Ben’s story I escaped across the street to the Tennessee Quilts shop and picked up a couple of yards of Halloween fabric for projects. The have a fabulous selection and I was happy to hear they had a shop online. I made it back just in time to hear Beth Horner’s story about the romance novel. She had the audience in stitches. I was able to sit in the back where a gentle breeze went by periodically. The weather was beautiful in Tennessee but it is very cold in the morning and very warm in the afternoon. Thank goodness there was no humidity.
We also found this tiny Christmas Shop on Main and one of the staff told us about Callahan’s of Calabash in North Carolina, just in case we were ever back in the neighborhood. One of my favorite shops from last year was the Celtic Cupboard. Last year I picked up a ring. When at first glance I thought was a pineapple Tasha was gracious enough to explain to me that it was a thistle. Yes, a thistle, that makes sense.
Antonio Rocha followed in the same tent so I say no reason to move. Tasha was off seeing other tellers and visiting the tent where we could purchase teller materials and have them signed. Antonio was at our festival two years ago when it was more common for us to have a teller to help kick off Tapestry events in early November. He told a story that I had heard before about the chicken and the crocodile being sisters. I was mesmerized, just as I had been the first time I had seen it. He is truly an amazing talent and his love for children shines through his work. I would love to have Antonio back for one of our events. He is absolutely amazing.
I finally got to see John McCutcheon. Tasha had seen him earlier in the day when he did a set on politics. I went to see his Sermon on the Mound: Life Love and Lessons from Baseball. I’m sorry to say my son could have been a great baseball player. Ironically, there were way too many politics in little league for us to navigate. I probably should have seen the set on politics. When I asked Tasha who is this year’s Bill Harley or Tom Chapin (who I also adore) her answer to me was John McCutcheon. So I waited until I could get a good spot and settled in to listen to baseball stories just as we are getting close to the end of baseball season. I loved John McCutcheon. He had all kinds of different musical instruments on the stage (please don’t put me in charge of sound ever again) and he was funny! Honestly funny. One of his most amazing performances was the one we saw on the last day when he sat down without his instruments, told a story and gave a performance using his body as an instrument. The sign interpreters had fun with that one!
After an evening break, Tasha and I went back to see Beth Horner, Carmen Deedy and Bil Lepp. And all three were just as great as they were the first time we heard them.

Day Two – A Storytelling Marathon

We listened to so may stories yesterday that by the time we got back I actually fell asleep in front of my So now it’s lunch time on day three and I finally have a moment to catch up. If I don’t do it now it will never happen. And as we all know I’m really good at setting up blogs but not very good at following through with the posting.
Friday morning started out with a stop at Starbucks. Yes, there really is a Starbucks in Johnson City, Tennessee. The night before when we were finding our way into town we drove by the Johnson City Public Library. It is an absolutely beautiful building and quite large. I’d be interested in seeing how they fund their library systems. Which I may look into after the Festival is over.
We immediately went to the Library Tent where we saw Carmen Deedy and Won-Idy Paye. Both were good but Carmen was exceptional and is now one of Tasha’s favorites. From there we separated. I went to see Michael Reno Harrell and Elizabeth Ellis. Both are masters of storytelling and live in the region. Elizabeth was hilarious and dangerously honest, and I would just like to add that her photos do not even touch upon the depth of her stories.
I stayed in the 2nd Avenue Tent and watched Minton Sparks, a spoken word award winner. I missed her last year when she was introduced at the Exchange Place, an event where new storytellers have the opportunity to tell a short story and be introduced to the festival goers. Her style is a mix of poetry with a live musician playing background music. In this case it was a musician who had experience playing with Eric Clapton. He was an incredible guitarist. I purchased her CD last year because, having deep south roots, she appealed to me. She is what you may picture a typical modern day southern woman to be like. Tall, svelte and wearing a flowing printed chiffon dress. She is definitely a visionary with the manner of her presentation and the content of her work.
Immediately following Minton (what a beautiful name too) was Kevin Kling. Kevin was manic as ever and just a hoot. I will never forget his sold out performance in Portland two years ago. Kevin is a brilliant story teller. True his stories are hilarious, but if you really pay attention to the structure of the story you can see how it is not only how the stories are delivered, but how they are crafted that make them the pieces of work that they are.
During the 2:30 session I went to see Peter Cook and Bil Lepp. Peter told a story involving baseball and brought up young members of the audience to help with the performance. One thing I would suggest for future attendees to Jonesborough is to try and stay in the family tent as much as possible. It is there where you can see performers who are comfortable with children and have performances geared toward a younger audience. His interaction with the crowd was fantastic and his facial expressions really pulled the audience in.
His performance presented a wonderful opportunity for young people to become involved with the presentation and really highlighted how well Peter works with his interpreter, or what you may consider the voice of his stories. Peter’s storytelling is a wonderful example of how someone you wouldn’t necessarily consider a storyteller breaking down communication boundaries and bring a truly entertaining
I could listen to Bil Lepp all day. Somehow he tells these stories that are totally bogus but the way he tells them make them believable. I would go as far as saying it is a cartoon with words. If you ever have a chance to see Bil Lepp in person, I would do it. (And you will in 2010 when he is one of Tapestry’s national tellers). I hooked my 13 year old son on to his CD’s and had to dig out the one I purchased last year, along with Kevin Kling’s and a few of Andy Offutt Irwin’s. They’re all good.
Michael Reno Harrell has a Nashville past and has now experience is evident by the quality of his voice and his skill as a musician. Modern-day stories with a neighborly twist. Tasha and I both enjoyed him and look forward to seeing more of his work.
One event we missed last year that we felt was extremely important for us to go to this year was the Exchange Place , an event that featured new tellers that have not participated in the NSF before. An exception this year was Kindra Gayle McGrane who came to Jonesborough as a young star of storytelling several years ago.
Exchange Place 2008 storytellers included Arif Choudhury, an American Muslim storyteller, Portland’s own Alton Chung, Sylvia Yancy Davis, Kindra Gayle McGrane, Temujin the Storyteller and Kim Weitkamp.
Arif Choudhury told a moving story of what it was like to be a Muslim after 9/11. With a little more experience I think Arif could be a valuable asset in bringing an understanding to the Muslim culture and how Muslim Americans are an important part of our community. A CPA by day and stand-up comedian / filmmaker by night, Arif has just recently entered the field of story telling. If you Google his name you can see that he has already gotten off to a great start and has built a lot of great relationships so far.
Local favorite Alton Chung told a wonderful story deeply seeded in the folklore of the Hawaiian Islands. It’s been wonderful to see Alton grow as such an accomplished storyteller. We are lucky to feature him as one of our regional tellers at Tapestry this year. He will also be play host to the Tellebration. I fear it will not be long before Alton will be much more difficult to book as he becomes more and more popular with the storytelling world.
Because Sylvia Yancy Davis is relatively new to storytelling I wasn’t able to find a great deal about her on the internet. She is a member of the National Association of Black Storytellers and shows great promise as she takes on another role in her very full professional life.
Kindra Gayle McGrane is a very young, in storyteller years, teller whose stories center around contemporary is sues and experiences. Because of her age most of her personal stories involve school, shopping and college. I loved her stories and I could totally identify with them. I found her a breath of fresh air in the midst of the traditional southern or folktale experience. I’m sure there will be some purists that do not care for her work and yes, perhaps she needs to gain a little more experience simply telling her stories, but what I am amazed about is the coming of storytellers who have grown up with technology. Storytelling has been a way of communicating and passing down history for centuries and I thoroughly enjoyed her take on college life, red fire engines and a day of bargain shopping. It will be interesting to see what she does with her future ahead of her. Her use of technology has given her additional depth and perspective for younger story listeners, as evidenced by her wedding website. What a way to get to know your storytellers!
Temujin the Storyteller told a story that was so alive and full of energy that I had difficult at times figuring out where the folk tales ended and where the current day tale began. He was hilarious and was able to transition between the present day and folktales effortlessly.
Kim Weitkamp was the last teller we saw during the Exchange Place, which surprises me because she is so talented and defined as a teller. In the true spirit of southern story telling she told a fantastical story about an evening sleigh ride. If you have heard her stories you will not be surprised to find out that she is going to a storytelling tour with Bil Lepp and Andy Offutt Irwin titled The Uncalled for Tour. How can you not like someone whose website is titled justkissthefrog and check out Kim’s blog too!!
Carmen Deedy. What can I say? Carmen definitely lived up to her reputation and quickly became one of our favorites. Most of you might know of her as an author of children’s books.
Brenda Wong Aoki is a very popular teller in the Bay Area. She told a mystical folktale about a crane. It was a wonderful story and she used a fan for emphasis. It reminded me of Charlie Chin who was the first storyteller I had ever seen live.
Doug Elliot was like a cross between a park ranger and a mountain man. He definitely has a love of nature and it shows through in his storytelling.
Bil Lepp, Bil Lepp, Bil Lepp.
In the Spirit, more commonly known as Glenda Zahra Baker and Emily Hooper Lansana gave a lyrical performance. It is always more difficult to bring a duo or an extremely popular teller to our festival because of the expense. They reminded me a bit of The Healing Force, a four person family storytelling group that infuses their stories with music. It will be interesting to see how Tapestry unfolds next year with the duo Eth Noh Tec.
There’s regional teller, national tellers, international tellers and then there’s Ben Haggarty. Words can not describe the talent of Ben Haggarty. It’s interesting that some storytellers you could easily see as a stand up comic, a music sensation or an actor, but for what ever reason, they have chosen the world of storytelling. For that I think we are truly fortunate.
Loved Minton Sparks and Peter Cook so I thought I would see them again.
Listening to Waddie Mitchell is like going back in time to the days when cowboys were everywhere and people entertained themselves with stories songs and books. Waddie recited a poem he was asked to write in commemoration of the 2008 Summer Olympics. It was a beautiful poem and I would love to hear it or read it again. He will be at a number of various locations throughout Oregon in November.
The Midnight Cabaret with Andy Offutt Irwin was everything a performance should be. Although I did hear mixed reviews throughout the next day, I really enjoyed it. It was especially nice to hear new material, which is never a given. Much of the material Andy presented during the Cabaret is on his new CD Crowd Control. I looked all over to find a place where it might be ordered but it is not up anywhere. Here’s a brief description on the Wiki site.
The fifth album by Irwin, crowd control (sic), is a storytelling compilation that was recorded during a show when Irwin was a Teller in Residence at the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, Tennessee. The album is scheduled to be released in October, 2008.
We saw Bill Harley during this event and throughout the weekend. We are really looking forward to having him as part of Tapestry 2008.
It’s important I point out that there are a few tellers that I did not go see while I was in Jonesboro. Primarily because we were going to have them at Tapestry, I had seen them before at other festivals or the tents were simple too full and there wasn’t even room for standing room only. A couple I could think of were Donald David and Tim Tingle. If you have been listening to storytelling for a long time then you know both of these two are seasoned veterans.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Day One - Lost in the Forest

First of all I think 3:00 in the morning is entirely too early to wake up to catch a flight at the airport. I think the only other reason I would do it is if I were going to Europe or Australia. Immediately after checking in and going through security, which I have to admit was a little disturbing when I practically had to disrobe, we met two women who were also on their way to Jonesborough.

We were delighted to make new friends and look forward to seeing Betsy and Ruth Ann in Tennessee. We discussed our favorite storytellers and left for the boarding gate.

At the time of this writing we are in the air somewhere between Wyoming and Nebraska. We’ll arrive in the afternoon and Tasha and I have talked about going for a ride and seeing a little more of the country side. We’re so close to Virginia and North Carolina we joke about being able to see three states in one day. We’ll see.

On the second flight I sat next to Peter Cook and across from Betsy and Ruth Ann. We picked up our rental car, went for a ride and got lost somewhere between Virginia and North Carolina in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. Even having a Forrester didn't help, we were still lost in the woods. On the way down mountain, we asked for directions and got back on track. We saw our favorite clothing store down South and we checked in our room at the Best Western just in time to see the end of the Palin/Biden debate.

Tomorrow we’re looking forward to hearing some stories at the National Storytelling Festival. But first I have to go to Target and get a cable so I can download the pictures I’ve been taking.

Special thanks to Rod Richards for letting Captain America come along and listen to some stories. I can’t help but think we’re going to have to keep our eye on his to make sure he doesn’t get into any mischief!