This weekend storytellers converged for the 21st annual Timpanogos Storytelling Festival outside of Orem, Utah, to keep the ancient craft alive and to share laughs. Here’s what it was all about, in their words.---
Because I live my life thinking in images. I allow them to spring fully-formed in my head and I try to convey that to the audience. Also, storytelling is a means of connection; it brings a community together.
-- storyteller Jennifer Munro style="font-size: small;">, 59, Madison, Connecticut
For me, laughter is the most important thing. My first teacher told me that once you open up people’s mouths with laughter you can enter and touch their heart. We all share funny, embarrassing and ridiculous situations that we can laugh at together. I tell a lot of stories in both English and Spanish and it’s amazing how the same story is funny in whatever language it’s told in. We are all just humans, although we might have different cultures, customs or food. Plus, I think it’s easier to teach kids lessons after you get them laughing.
-- storyteller Antonio Sacre, 41, Los Angeles, Calif.
It is the most essential thing a family can do. You have to collect these stories from the people that lived them or, at least, passed down. The facts don’t necessarily matter, it’s that humanity is exchanged. That’s where generations and generations and generations connect.
I recently heard a Grandpa tell his Grandson a story about their family on a mountaintop here. That kid will have that story with him for a lifetime, change his life and he can pass it on. Stories shouldn’t isolate families from one another, they should connect families everywhere. That’s the humanity of stories.
-- storyteller Andy Offutt Irwin, 52, Covington, Georgia
It gives the storyteller and the audience some comfort. We can talk about real things in a way that is entertaining and meaningful.
-- storyteller Bil Lepp, 40, South Charleston, W.V.
It was my first time telling a story in front of an audience. I was nervous, but I think everyone is their first time. I told a story about learning to separating the movies from reality. The story was about watching Jurassic Park before I probably should have. I overcame my nightmares by learning about the power of music. I just hope people benefited from my story.
-- patron Nate Jacob, 27, Eagle Mountain, Utah
Storytelling is what happens between the teller and the listener. It’s communication; that’s it. Here’s were most people get mixed-up: It’s not about you. You’re not there to impress people or show off how cool your story is. That’s not what it is. It’s what you can do for the people that are listening and what they can learn from the story. It’s like picking the perfect gift for certain people.
If you’re starting out, start small, with an audience of one to three people that will encourage you and you feel comfortable around.
-- storyteller Motoku, 46, Amherst, Mass.
I typically tell traditional African folk tales. There, storytellers are expected to play music along with stories. They’re also historians. The idea [of musical accompaniment] is ancient. It welcomes the audience in to participate. Stories are already participatory because the audience has to create images that the storytellers offer.
I feel fortunate because not only is Ed a great storyteller, he’s a great musician. We’re both playing African instruments; I played the mbria and he played the banjo.-- storyteller Eshu
How does the festival compare this year to previous years?
Well, last year was our 20th anniversary, and we had twice the amount of storytellers so it’s like comparing apples and oranges. But, compared to regular years, attendance has been on average or better. People come from all over the U.S. to enjoy it here. And, it’s wonderful. The weather has been good, too. But, when you get in the tents and hear the stories, that’s the real good stuff. There’s been a great line-up of tellers this year.
-- committee member, Marlene Goldrich, 59, Orem, Utah