33rd Texas Storytelling Festival unites speakers and listeners with words

33rd Texas Storytelling Festival unites speakers and listeners with words

33rd Texas Storytelling Festival unites speakers and listeners with words
March 08
17:57 2018

Stories are not just for kids at bedtime. Whether you like historical fiction or adult versions of fairy tales, the festival has something for everyone.

The 33rd annual Texas Storytelling Festival will be held March 8-11 at the Denton Civic Center. Organized by the Tejas Storytelling Association, an all-volunteer organization, the festival will consist of several storytelling concerts.

“Story is an intimate experience between the teller and the listener,” Kay Tobola, Texas Storytelling Festival managing director, said. “It can bring understanding and awareness in a way that speeches or the printed page or even theatre [can’t].”

The festival begins Thursday night with the free Boot Hill Ghost Story Concert at 7 p.m.

“I think [people] don’t really consider how much more vibrant a story is than, say, a lecture or reading text,” artistic director Mary Grace Ketner said. “But with ghost stories, they do know because they’ve heard those and were probably told some at slumber parties.”

The festival will continue on Friday with several storytelling concerts where the first featured teller-concert will begin at 7:30 p.m.

As with any medium of art, there are several diverse types of storytelling, many of which will be on exhibit this week.

Adam Booth tells Appalachian folk tales and personal stories when he’s not working as a musician. Beth Horner is known for her sense of humor, but she also creates historical stories from her great-grandfather’s Civil War writings. Laura Packer tells fantasy and fairy tale stories for adult audiences. Tim Tingle, a member of Oklahoma’s Choctaw nation, creates fiction based on Native American history.

Beginning the story

Tingle has performed at the festival many times. While he first heard stories of his ancestry throughout his childhood, he began his storytelling career when he told stories at his son’s school. He eventually decided to create historical fiction stories that were meant to teach middle schoolers about Native American history.

His book “How I Became a Ghost,” written for a middle school audience, is an example of this. It is told from the point of view of a young boy who dies during the Trail of Tears. Its sequel is set to release April 10.

Tingle currently has 17 published works. Although he enjoys writing, he also appreciates the unique experience of oral storytelling because of the impact of tone and silent pauses.

“You can’t do silence on the page because everything is silent,” Tingle said.

The sound and silence of storytelling continues on Saturday, starting with a free family concert at 9 a.m. After the concert, the kids can participate in story activities and end the morning with a pizza party.

There will also be a liar’s contest in the morning in which participants will try to make up a ridiculous but enveloping story. Judges will choose the winner.

In the afternoon, there will be a fringe concert. In this kind of concert, tellers are randomly picked at the beginning and given 20 minutes each to perform. Ketner said these performances can bring attention to tellers who may otherwise be unknown.

Followed by the concert is a silent auction to raise money for the Tejas Storytelling Association. Each of the featured tellers will bring something to donate for the auction.

Since Booth is a musician, he plans to write a song inspired by the festival and give the original manuscript to the auction. Horner will provide a box of Edgar Allan Poe memorabilia because she wrote a story about her dad’s love of the writer. Packer is designing a journal with story prompts. Tingle, who was very close with late storyteller Doc Moore, will give a few books from Moore’s personal library.

Saturday evening’s concert of featured tellers will be hosted by Mary Ann Blue. She has worked at the festival in many different capacities, from concession stand worker to artistic director and eventual featured teller.

“I’ve been a storyteller all my life,” Blue said.

She was 3 years old when she first performed a story in front of an audience where she told the story of Jesus’ birth at a Christmas pageant.

Based in San Antonio, she teaches storytelling workshops for kids and works full-time as a Spanish teacher.

Tobola also used to work as a teacher. She said that the storytelling movement started in the 1960’s in Jonesborough, Tennessee, where the National Storytelling Festival is held.

Finding spirit in story

Festivals spread around the country. The Texas festival was originally held in Quakertown Park, located right by the Denton Civic Center. The festival landed in the park due to it being Denton’s black community in the early 20th century, when the area was subject to racial tension and conflict.

“There’s a very dramatic story about the very location where we have our festival,” Ketner said.

However, the festival itself will focus on many other stories, including a Sacred Tales concert on Sunday morning. Ketner said these stories are spiritual without being tied to one particular religion.

There will also be workshops offered throughout the festival to help new and experienced storytellers develop their style and skills.

The festival will include many kinds of stories, from fantasy to comedy to a mix of genres. In fact, Tingle knows it is important to incorporate comedy into serious stories. He pointed out that William Shakespeare always included comedic elements in his tragedies.

“If you don’t give people a joyful ride on a story, they’re going to look for another boat,” Tingle said.

No matter the genre, Tobola believes that humans naturally respond to story. She said that when one person is trying to explain a concept to someone else who does not understand, they often result to using an anecdote or analogy. This is one reason that she believes the festival has lasted so long.

Tobola also wants festival attendees to know that storytelling is unique from other artistic performances.

“We are hardwired through evolution to respond to story,” Tobola said. “Story is just part of us being human.”

For the full schedule, including indication of which events are free, click here.

Featured Image: File

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Camila Gonzalez

Camila Gonzalez

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