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Papa Joe  ~  Travel Notes

PJ's Travel Notes

From: Papa Joe

To: Storytell

Subject: Tour Notes #13

Date: Saturday, July 19, 1997 11:37 AM

July 10th - 12th, 1997 Michigan Storyteller's Festival, Flint, MI

I arrived at the Flint Public Library just before Sunrise and manage to get some much needed sleep. I even woke up in time to tell at the Kiwanis Club's Luncheon. Cynthia Stilley is my host and the Coordinator of the festival. I'm staying in the Library parking lot. The Festival Tent is on the other side of the Library. This is my first Story Festival outside New England and I must say I am pleased to be a part of it. First of all, the Festival is free: workshop, performances, and swaps. Secondly, the festival has a history: this is theth year. Mostly, it has continuity. The staff knows what it is doing and works hard to improve every year. They don't keep all the performers on site, but provide out reach programs to make sure the folks who can't come to the Library can still enjoy the featured tellers.

This year, my friends Len Cabral from Rhode Island and Tom Weakley from Vermont were two of the three featured tellers. We had a good laugh about how three New Englanders managed to get together in the Michigan Festival. The third featured teller was Kathryn Windham. I was hired as the Master of Ceremonies.

I must say being MC was really difficult. Getting up on a stage with such an excellent family audience and not being able to tell stories is contrary to my nature. I did do some warm ups before the Friday night show. I hate to see the kids sitting around waiting with nothing to do. And I also manage to get a slot at the story swap, so it's not like I didn't get to tell at all. The really difficult part was being 'on' all the time. I'm used to working hard and burning up all my energy in an hour or two of performance. As MC, I need to pace myself for a4 hour day. By Saturday afternoon, I was starting to lose words. Yikes! Went to introduce folks and I couldn't remember their last name. Even Tom and Len's. So instead of staying for the Saturday swap, I went off site for a salad. A couple of hours of break and my brain returned to normal.

The festival staff is great and they take good care of us. Aside from paying our expenses, we were taken to restaurants whenever we needed a meal and each of us were assigned someone to insure nothing caused us any inconvenience. At Sharing the Fire in Boston, we called them angels. Mine was LoiS. :) So much fun having a Storytell person for an angel. LoiS thought a devil might be more appropriate. I really had to thank her though. There were times when Tasha Tripod wanted to stroll, but I needed to be working. LoiS took her to her favorite waste lots and watering holes.

Tom Weakley is a traditional Northern New England teller. He'll take any tale and it'll come out as if it happened in his home town. He is very careful to give his sources at the end of each tale though. The source notes come out in a patter of "you can do this too." Just about the time of the Virtual Story Swap on Storytell, Tom told the story of the pickpockets and the midwife's wedding ring. <Twilight Zone Theme Song> Very strange that you folks on Storytell were enjoying the same story. Tom's of course was set in Southern Vermont.

Len Cabral has a style very similar to mine. I have to be very care watching him. I could tell his stories using his voices and body language without even trying. I should ask him if it works the other way around. One of the tools I use to create the rapport with an audience is mirroring. For those that don't know this term, it is copying the postures of the people you talk with. To me it is automatic, but Len and I are so close already, I have to work at not sounding like him days after we've talked. Len needs to be seen to be appreciated. His joy is the joy of his listeners. He is a contemporary US American teller with few peers.

Kathryn Windham was a new teller to me. I'd never heard her before. What a woman! What a storyteller! She tells (among other things) true ghost stories. She has a quiet presents that commands listening. And a confidences that commands respect. I loved her from the moment I met her and would love to sit at her feet and listen to anything she wanted to say.

During her last telling of the festival, I watched something that shows the power of story. It was hot and a bit muggy in the tent. We had opened as many of the flaps to let in fresh air, but there was no breeze. As Kathryn told her stories, I could see the heat was effecting her. Her face grew red and sweat was dripping down her neck. It looked like she was wilting like a delicate flower in the desert sun. I was frightened that she might faint on stage. I kept hoping that she'd turn and drink the water I had left for her, but she just kept on telling.

After thirty minutes, she began a story about her aunt. As she told the tale, the air changed. I could feel a fresh cool breeze and smell the scent of spring flowers. Kathryn seemed to grow younger and stronger before our eyes. It was incredible. There was no breeze, nor any spring flowers except in the story. But we were all affected. Sunwolf and Fran would have loved to watch the magic. Talk about story trance. Kathryn walked off the stage as fresh as a young girl on a Spring morning and her glass of water sat untouched.

One of my favorite parts of the festival is the Michigan Showcase. Five of the story groups in the state each send a representative to tell at the festival. It lends a great diversity in talent and style to the show. I missed the children's tellings. They were done in the library while I was busy in the tent. I heard some great things about it though. Maybe next time I come, I'll be able to see them.

There was a sign translator, Felicia Skinner. She needs to stop pretending she's a translator and start telling on her own. She's a marvel and had to work to not upstage the performers. As graceful as a dancer she was. To watch her was to understand the story and there were times when it seemed that the teller was translating for her. She's very young and lacks confidence in her abilities, but there is no lack to her talent. If I ever share a stage with her for story, I'll bring her to my side as an equal and not pretend she's a shadow. I think we could do a great tandem telling dancing side by side.

All in all it was a great festival with very little room for improvement. If you ever get a chance, go and enjoy it. I met lots of nice people, some of whom were travelers, who come every year and picnic on the lawn. It's a great family weekend.

Pax & Amicitia,

Papa Joe

In the Vardo, On the road, USA

Papa Joe  ~  Travel Notes

PJ's Travel Notes

Papa  Joe  ~  Telling  Tales

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