Monday, October 17, 2011

Back to Jonesborough

I went to the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee this year for the first time since 2008. I started going to the festival in 1989. I think I've been eight times now--I'm jealous of my storytelling friends who go every year. I went late this year, traveling with my friend Joyce Slater on Friday instead of Thursday. We had a 6:00 a.m. flight from Kansas City (I almost wrote "plight" and that wasn't too far off). Though that meant getting up at 3:45 a.m., we arrived in Tennessee at noon and got to the festival in time to get lunch and listen to stories.

I'm not going to write here about the ongoing political issues with the festival, the town and the storytelling organizations, so if you expect me to dish some dirt, you'll have to look elsewhere for mudpies.

Of course I go to the festival to hear great stories, but I also go to see my "tribe," other storytellers. It's a place where we don't have to explain what it is we do, or why. I always come home refreshed.

There were five tents this year. I think each holds about 1800-2000 people. As always, some of the sets were olios, an old vaudeville term for sessions that offer several storytellers one after another. Some were solo performances and some were shared sets with two storytellers.

The Library Tent from the outside
The Library Tent from the inside
I had some favorite storytellers this year, as I always do. Though I am not a costume-wearing storyteller myself, I thoroughly enjoyed Dolores Hydock's Eglamore and Cristobel, in which she is the Medieval narrator: 

I also heard her tell more contemporary stories in a couple of other sets without costume and it was just as compelling. 

Speaking of compelling, Clare Muireann Murphy was also fabulous. She's from Ireland, which doesn't mean she only tells Irish stories (I was reminded of my friend Synia who made the point that though she's African-American, she didn't want to be hemmed into only telling African and African-American stories). Here's one Clare told:

And of course, my friend Megan Hicks was wonderful. She was a "New Voice," the designation the festival gives for tellers who are new to the main stage--some "New Voices" have been telling for decades. Megan's telling was strong and true. I saw her get three standing ovations! Yay! This video isn't a story I heard her tell, and of course in Jonesborough she was on the main stage, not in a place where a cat might walk behind her (I love that!), but this shows one of her styles, a fractured fairy tale: 

I say one of her styles, because she also told a historical tale and traditional tales that were not fractured. 

There were many other amazing storytellers there: Willy Claflin, Bill Harley, Donald Davis, Lyn Ford, Gene Tagaban, Elizabeth Ellis and others. I went to the Exchange Place, the regional showcase (I was in this in 2001) and joined in the cheering on of these storytellers who may one day be on the main stage. We all missed the venerable Kathryn Tucker Windham, who died earlier this year. We all wondered if we'd be back next year for the 40th anniversary of this festival.


Tim said...

Thanks for the snapshot of your trip to the Mother Lode! Enjoyed it, even without mudpies.

Geraldine Buckley said...

Thank you for this wonderful post -it plunged me right back into that glorious weekend at Jonesborough - such delicious memories!

I particuarly loved the way you added the three videos - fantastic tellers all - and it was so lovely to be able to marvel again at their talent.

Blessings to you!

PriscillaHowe said...

And may I say, Geraldine, that you rocked at the Exchange Place! Well done!

megan hicks said...

Thanks for the shout out. Gracious! It was wonderful to see you and actually get some time to talk. I hope our paths cross again soon.