Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Connecticut Storytelling Festival

Wow!  What can I say?  A great event, well hosted, wonderfully attended, fantastic tellers, and great hosts - all at the Connecticut Storytelling Festival in New London, CT..  I have never been to the Connecticut College before, where it was held and I found there one of the nicest looking campuses I have seen.  A huge green, old stately buildings, art installations all over the campus, music coming from open windows and from stages and rooms and a recording studio too.  (I wanted to dive in there and play around.)  There was also dance, not only in the form of Contra, which was part of the Festival, but somewhere on campus Saturday night there was dancing, but I missed that attending the wonderful Midnine Cabaret.  The weather was joyous so I got up early both mornings to enjoy the silence, peace, warm breeze and sunlight before heading into the Festival and got outside between events.

I was sharing the stage with some strong tellers; it was an honor and joy to be part of those events.  Although everyone was really good, and I mean Really Good, the two stand outs for me, if I were forced to pick, would have been the headliner Tim Tingle and the youngest teller there Sanju Sathish.  Sanju is 11 years old and came to the States not speaking English six years ago.  He was chosen from 200, that's right, Two Hundred sixth graders who participated in the Rowayton's Tellebration! last November. He told as well as any of us on the stage.  He had presence, power in his telling, and confidence.  And what I loved seeing was his obvious joy of being up there, doing what he was doing: telling a wonderful Jack tale.  I hope we see a lot more of him over the years - brilliant.

Tim Tingle blew me away.  This was my first time seeing or hearing him, although I have read his books, and his tales were funny, poignant, gracious, striking and boy were they powerful.  They were the kind of stories that leave you in silent thought, after the event, mulling over what you heard and distilling the wisdom in the tales.  And when I met him and chatted with him I found he was like his tales: funny, poignant, gracious, striking and kind. He was so open to everyone who came up to speak with him and spent as much time as he could with all.  It made me want to, for a moment, instead of go home, drive to Oklahoma and study with him.

I was also fortunate to share the stage twice with Megan Hicks.  She is another great teller I would recommend seeing.  She  is so joyful and relaxed both on and off stage it was a pleasure to not only work  with her, but to hang out with her and her man Jack who is a fine craftsperson himself.  As I said, everyone was good who I saw and I heard only good things about those I did not see which left me with a new list of people to see perform.

One story that was told which popped my socks off was a story told by Teresa Whitaker and Frank Schwartz.  Teresa told the story of the Seal Hunter whilst her partner Frank accompanied on guitar.  It is a story I have been wanting to tell but have not, as I have not yet found the voice of the story.  Frank and Teresa couched the story in such a way, that it came to life, vividly, wildly yet with peace in the telling that gave it power and such meaning.  And they were such a cute couple on stage too!  A joy to see.

And of course at such events I got to mingle with all these great tellers and more, and the audience and chat with folks about the stories, storytelling, and art.  It is a fantastic festival and I encourage those who have not been to the Connecticut Storytelling Festival to do so, and for those who have not been for a long time to pay another visit.  Next year's headliners, I believe, are Eshu & Motoko.  I had a quick chat with Eshu and had a great time with his nephew John Paul.  I heard Motoko talking and if any of that is anything to go by, Eshu and Motoko (who both have beautiful voices with great timbre) will be fantastic to see.

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