Thursday, September 03, 2009

Summer Stories

One of the great things about storytelling, is that it is a community event. It can be a small community, such as family, where we all sit around listening to each other’s tales; or a group of friends talking about their day, or vacation, or latest adventure in sports. Or it can be the larger community, like a summer camp, a school, or festival on the green where people tell their tales in a performance space, or under the storytelling tree. Without someone to tell stories with or to, storytelling does not exist. This is one of my favourite parts of storytelling; it is a community event. Over the summer I went to thirty four different communities, some large and some small, but all wonderful.

It is really good when someone else puts on a good festival and invites everyone to come and share, especially when it is to pay back their own customers. In my Upper Valley community of N.H. and VT there is a store that every year puts on a couple of events, one of which is their Producers Faire. Local farms and businesses who sell goods at the Lebanon, NH Coop get to give away their products. The Coop also brings in entertainment such as singers, one-man circuses, hay rides, and (this is I came in) storytellers! I must have told about 50 stories that day. Stories that ranged from Three Little Pigs to the White Trout (an ancient Irish fairy tale for older ears). It was such a good event, watching people coming and going, eating and drinking with smiles on their faces on a glorious summer day. Everyone gets to go to this faire for free and has a great deal of fun. It is a way of giving back to the community.

One of the best experiences of the year, so far for me, was when I went to CAMP! (Camp Exclamation Point) in West Fairlee, Vermont. I have been there for their mid-week literacy day, doing storytelling there late into the night, for a number of years now, but this year I did an ‘Awesome’ (a daily activity that runs the whole week) with one of the camp councilors, Erica. We teamed up to do a “Drama-rama” play with the children, incorporating storytelling. It was fun to have the kids find a tale to tell about their time spent at this camp. CAMP! is for kids who suffer from lack of social, and economic insecurities, amongst other things, kids who are not given a ‘fair’ start in life, one might say. Erica and I and the kids then took the stories and put them into a frame, which was: the only boy in our group stumbling into a girls’ tent getting lost at night and swapping stories. It worked really well and the kids were amazing. All of them (apart from two who got sick) went ahead and performed in front of the other campers and did a splendid job. In four hours, over four days, we put together a 10-15 minute play where the kids spoke their lines clearly, performed with style and confidence. It was a joy to be part of the experience.

Not only that, it was great to see the same councilor still there and be welcomed as one of the family.

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