Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Granite State Storytelling Festival

First of all, I was honoured to be able to tell at the First Ever Granite State Storytelling Festival and had a great time with Karen Chase with whom I shared a stage.

I went to the festival as both teller and listener. It’s about an hour drive from Orford, New Hampshire with the family, and we found all the locations easily and it was nice they were all so close to one another. The town of New London is a wonderful town, filled with interesting and many independent stores and a great library! At this time of year the colours were gorgeous; so many reds, oranges, greens and golds. Even where we live, where the leaves have turned already, we picked up a few more leaves to add to our collection!

We went early to the Town Hall to get a good seat to see Odds Bodkin with our nine and four old children. Needless to say we were not disappointed by his performance. As always, Bods, great show. We then separated and I went to see some ghost stories told by new comer to the festival circuit Donna Leard. Donna was sharing performing space with Rona Leventhal and Vandy Duffy. I have taken workshops with Rona (and would so again!) but had never seen her perform. Neither had I seen Donna or Vandy, so it was a treat. Most of the tales were new to me and I really enjoyed my time watching and listening; even the tale that I knew sucked me in to the mysterious side of life (and death).

My kids went to see Leeny tell tales for younger children and my four year daughter not only had a great time, but fell in love with Leeny and is still talking about “that nice lady with long nails”! My nine year old and wife also enjoyed Leeney’s presentation. It is so hard to make any decision on seeing all these wonderful tellers. I wished that we could split into two or three and gone to visit more than one teller at a time.

As a performer I got to see many of my storytelling friends in the Green Room for lunch, although I did not get to spend so much time with them as I might have liked as I was off to my performance.

I was lucky to be sharing the performance space at the library with Karen Chace, who although a seasoned teller, was a first timer at a festival. To say she was good would be underplaying her storytelling. It was brilliant. Where I was my usual boisterous self, Karen was quiet and centred but had the audience in her firm grasp. There is something about Karen’s telling that just sucks you in; something to do with her method which draws not just on the story, but on the thousands upon thousands of tellers who have told these tales for centuries before. She takes this energy, this magic, and brings it into the story which flies like an arrow into your soul and lodges there. There are good storytellers, and great entertainers, and then there are others who have this gift of storytelling, demanding your attention in such a way you find yourself there with her, and with all the other characters, but not in a superficial way, but REALLY there, mind, body and soul. It is a place where that story will stay with you forever. This will not be the only festival Karen performs at and I have no idea why she has not told at other festivals before this.

After that I went to see Leeny work her magic with Aidan. Aidan and I caught half of Leeny’s show and then headed out to go home. It is a long day for Perry, our four year old daughter. Leeny was, as always, wonderful and had my son and myself and the rest of the audience eating from her hand. And of course, she had the audience jump nice and high during one of her ‘jump’ stories! The first time I saw that happen I was watching and listening to Tony Toledo (sadly absent from the festival) a few years ago, and I was sitting at the back of the space. When he did his ‘jump’ bit the whole audience (must have been a hundred bums on seats there) lifted out of their chairs (including me); it was so funny to see! I asked him afterward how he managed to keep a straight face to see all those people rise up the way they did! He told me the first time it happened to him he nearly laughed out loud!

The stories we saw Leeny do were brilliantly spooky! “Woo ha ha!” as Leeny would say!

Our daughter was asleep before we left New London and our son was telling Mama all about Leeny’s tales. It was a fantastic day and I cannot wait for next year to roll around to see even more gifted tellers do their thing.

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