September 20th, 2008

storyteller doll

Colonial Williamsburg Storytelling Festival

I made it over to the visitor center to buy my ticket early enough that I didn't miss any tellers. The ticket prices were definitely higher this year, in part because evening events (other than the wine and cheese event) were included, while they had been ticketed separately in the past. I did the Saturday only ticket (at $71), as well as the wine and cheese ($35).

I did, indeed, follow my usual rule of trying to hear tellers who I haven't heard before, at least for the shorter sets. I'd gone to a workshop Susan Klein did, but didn't think I'd heard her perform before. She told an exquisite story about going to the beach as a child. I had heard Syd Lieberman tell once before. I'd been disappointed that time (at the midnight cabaret at Jonesborough, where I felt that the story he told was not really ready for an audience yet), but I was willing to give him a second chance. While I was mildly amused by his "Zen and the Art of Storytelling" and by a briefer story he told about his daughter, I didn't find either especially satisfying.

Cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell was very enjoyable. I did hear later on that some people had trouble understanding the way he speaks, but that was not a problem for me. As for Valerie Tutson, I liked her energy and her performing style, but her piece (about Zora Neale Hurston) could have used tighter editing.

The only one of the regional tellers I hadn't heard before was Rich Knoblich, so I went to hear him (and local teller Sharon Rogers). He was fine, but I find it hard to listen to several tall tales in a row. I may also have been suffering from the after lunch slump.

For the one hour sessions, I figure it is best to go with the tried and true. Milbre Burch started off her set with werewolves, smallpox, and anorexia - all those nice cheery subjects. Actually, I was very pleased with what she told, particularly her version of "Beauty and the Beast" which I remembered from Oklahoma City. (That's the one which involves anorexia, the idea being that Beauty thinks she is a Beast. It's a truly unusual and arresting story.) She also told some lighter material, including a Joha story and a story from the Arabian nights. All in all, a nice range and I do like hearing a mix of material.

Donald Davis is also a safe choice and he was, indeed, very funny in his tales of various teachers. There are fairly few people who can have an audience roaring with laughter over Latin verb endings. I do, however, have a few (minor) qualms about some of the segues between pieces, which sounded a bit awkward to me.

The wine and cheese event allows tellers to perform material to an entirely adult audience. I'll say that Gayle Ross took advantage of that the most, but I still have no idea why she told some of the material she used. She had a very nice (and well told) folktale and a somewhat amusing anecdote, but there was a lot of other random stuff at the beginning of her set. I thought Syd Lieberman's personal story of this event was the strongest one I've heard him tell, possibly because of my inherent bias towards both show tunes and baseball. I got rather lost in Art Johnson's story, but I will blame being tired for that as I somehow forgot that there was a story within a story involved. Valerie Tutson had some good material that I felt was in serious need of editing. Kim Wietkamp was the highlight of the event for me, with her rendition of a story I'd heard her tell before. And Donald Davis had another very funny piece to close out the event.

I only stayed for a little bit of the scary stories since it's not a genre I really care much for and I was tired. I thought Milbre Burch's version of a Jack tale (Sop-doll) was very well told. I slipped out after that as I was just too worn out to listen to more. Fortunately, I had a fairly short wait for the bus back to the Visitor Center (and a short drive back to the hotel).

All in all, it was a fun day. It was also, of course, good to see several people who I don't see very often. I also left with the idea of doing some more work on a story that has been on the back burners of the brain for a while.