L. Stachew: Story Time

Oh, how I love stories. Is there anything quite as ancient, quite as magical as the story? If you have ever been anywhere, and I mean anywhere, then you’ve told a story. We are all storytellers. We all have a story inside of us – a story to share with others.

I think there’s something to be said about orally sharing a story. It’s one thing to read words on a page, but to hear those words – each sound articulated with such crispness and eloquence – there’s something inherently magical about it, which is lost when those words are sewn to the pages of a book.

This was something I learned when I attended The Ark’s 27th Annual Storytelling Festival last night. I braved the frozen night air and walked the 27 minutes from my dorm room to the theater. I really had no idea what I was getting myself in to. I had never been to The Ark, nor even a storytelling festival before, and here I was on a Saturday night, by myself, sitting in a small theater with unfamiliar faces. I was met with something much more different, much more inspiring, than I was expecting.

This year’s festival featured three astounding storytellers: Jane Fink, Tim Tingle, and Donna Washington. Three storytellers whom I have never heard of, and each with their own beautifully unique voice. The first storyteller, Jane, enraptured the audience with her poetic, whimsical words, bursting with images of snow, of memories, and of pure joy. Her hands twisted in the air like she was forming magic spells. As I listened to Jane tell a story of her parents meeting her college boyfriend, I realized how much storytelling is a reciprocal relationship between the speaker and the listener. The laughter, the applause, the shrieks, and the shouts that flow throughout the theater are all unique to the story. As fun as it is to imagine the sounds of a story that you read, to actually hear the shrieks of a peacock or the shouting laughter of children throwing snowballs, as Jane tells in her stories, makes the listener feel as if they are inside of the story.

The second storyteller, Tim, was a true master of stories. Armed with a Native American drum in his hand, he shared with us stories of Choctaw boys, including himself, growing up in the rural south, facing hardships of racism and discrimination. His stories were filled with such fantastic detail, I almost began to wonder if these events he told of had truly happened. I thought back to what the presenter said before the show began: “Stories and truth are very different from stories and fact.” I realized that it wasn’t the facts in the stories that I admired; what I admired was the magic of the story itself. Out of curiosity, I looked up a few of the names that Tim mentioned in his stories and realized what he told was really true. Tim was such an impressive storyteller, he had made real events seem too fantastic to be real. The very last sentence he spoke to us was so moving, it is still taking time to sink in: “If you speak to the goodness in someone’s heart, they will speak back to you, and you will live in it.” What beautiful, touching words.

The last storyteller, Donna Washington, was the treat of the show. Her voice, beaming with life and enthusiasm, filled the stage with such a surge of vitality. She articulated each word with a velvety richness, I felt as if I could have reached up and captured her words in my hands. She told us stories of “relationships gone sideways”, like the classic Wife of Bath story from the Canterbury Tales, and a ghost story her 10-year old son wrote. Even though I was familiar with the Wife of Bath story, hearing it spoken was an entirely new experience. I knew what was going to happen next, but I could feel myself sitting at the edge of my seat, anxiously waiting for the next scene to be told. In between her stories, Donna told us about her experiences as a writer, saying, “As a writer, I know that only ten percent of what’s in your head makes it onto paper.” I think as writers, we can all agree with that statement wholeheartedly!

From that wonderful experience I had at The Ark’s Storytelling Festival last night, I hope that I have been able to show you at least a bit of how magical storytelling truly is. I encourage you all to become collectors of stories and keep them nestled in your pocket, ready to share with others. We are all storytellers. We all have a story inside of us. Let’s keep this ancient tradition alive and keep the magic flowing.

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