March 19th, 2020

storyteller doll

Women's Storytelling Festival

I will have more to say about COVID-19 and social distancing and so on, but first I want to talk about last weekend’s big event.

I’ve been working for several months (along with other people from Better Said Than Done, led by Jessica Robinson) on planning for the Women’s Storytelling Festival, held March 13-14 in Fairfax, Virginia. The planning committee anticipated lots of things, but I don’t think any of us thought of a global pandemic. I was scurrying around trying to make sure that all the storytellers knew where they were supposed to be when and providing advice on where to park and making sure emcees had info on the people they were introducing and the like. Then we were faced with the question of whether or not we could even go ahead.

On Wednesday we had a lot of discussion and, given that the City of Fairfax was not canceling any events through the weekend, we decided to push ahead. And then came the question of who would be there.

We had 18 storytellers scheduled. On Wednesday, one of the tellers in our local producers’ showcase (the lunch time show on Saturday) backed out. On Thursday, one teller for our Friday night showcase canceled. Both of those women are over 80 years old, so it didn’t seem surprising. On Thursday afternoon, one of the featured storytellers dropped out. It made perfect sense, as she is the primary caretaker for her 85-year-old mother-n-law. In the end, we lost three more teller from the lunch show, which we handled by having the Friday night emcee fill in and having one of the other tellers tell a second story. We lost another teller from the Friday night show, so I ended up taking her place, while one of the featured tellers took the slot of the other teller who had dropped out. As for the featured tellers, we lost another but just went ahead with four.

It ended up working out fine. We had smaller audiences than we had planned for, but they were responsive and appreciative. Lots of people said how much they needed this last chance to get out before everything would be shuttered. And, of course, it was great to spend some time with my storytelling tribe.

We will do another festival. Maybe next year.

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