Friday, October 12, 2007

Back home from Jonesborough

Whew, what a festival! I met my friend Margaret Meyers for supper at Dogwood Lane just after pulling in to town. After fortifying ourselves with Greek salad and good conversation, we went on to the National Story Night performance (Willy Claflin was a hoot, as always). We began to see old friends as we arrived. The tribe was gathering. Some were performing, some were emceeing, some were like me, just along for the ride.

And what a ride it was. There were lots of "New Voices" this year (they're new to the National Storytelling Festival, not to storytelling). Some of my favorites:

Motoko, who is Japanese but now lives in Massachusetts, tells polished gems of stories with a delightful simplicity. I was reminded of that phrase about how yoga should be "effortless effort." Motoko's mix of story and mime was exactly that.

Gene Tagaban refers to himself as "one crazy raven," and how true that is. He's Tlingit, Cherokee and Filipino. His stories were a mix of personal narrative and traditional story, and at the end of one of his sets, he donned his regalia and treated us to a raven dance. The cadence of his speech reminded me of a student from Haskell Indian Nations University who attended a workshop I gave a couple of weeks ago. I think he was also Tlingit. I mentioned this to Gene who told me he also went to Haskell.

I wish I'd gotten to hear more from Dolores Hydock. I went to her performance of "Silence: A Medieval Adventure in Story and Song," which she performed with the Medieval music troupe PanHarmonium. She comes from a theater background, so this long traditional story was told in costume and with an English accent, but neither impeded the story. The tent was full (1000 people or more?) and she got a well-deserved standing ovation. It was fabulous to see how hungry people are for long traditional stories.

I also got to hear some of the "Old Guard" of storytelling. It was a pleasure, as always, to hear Bill Harley, Jay O'Callahan, Donald Davis, Kathryn Windham--she's 89, I think! I went to the Exchange Place, the regional stage where each performer gets about 12 minutes (I performed here in 2001). Some of those performers will definitely be back on the main stage, I'm sure.

And then there was the general hanging around. I got to see my New England story buddies, old friends from Going Deep and WOW weekends, Midwestern friends, folks I've known from countless conferences and festivals. It felt like a large family reunion.

At lunch on Sunday, I was seated with three bewildered ladies from North Carolina who didn't know there was a storytelling festival going on in Jonesborough. They had just come over for a day of antiquing. As we sat in the din of the restaurant, I explained that a gathering of storytellers is rarely quiet, except during performances. I told them about the story magic in the tents. I don't know if they dared stop to listen to stories. If they did, I bet they'll come back next year.

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