Sunday, October 12, 2008

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.

1 comment:

das said...

Digital storytelling is critical to engaging these young students in reflecting on school and their futures, informing them of the nature of college and preparation for college, and encouraging them to develop high academic aspirations. Both preservice teachers and middle school students create and share digital stories about interests, aspirations, and education. The research design includes a control group and a treatment group with multiple measures for effects during the span of the study.

Viral Marketing