fauxklore (fauxklore) wrote,

Culpeper Tells

This past weekend was Culpeper Tells, a new annual storytelling festival in Culpeper, Virginia. Since this is about the same time of year as we've been doing the annual Virginia Storytelling Gathering, the Virginia Storytelling Alliance (VASA) board (which I am finishing a term on) decided to combine the events. In practice, what that meant was that there was a showcase of VASA storytellers on Friday night and the annual VASA membership meeting, followed by a "sacred stories" swap and a punfest on Sunday morning. If you are a long term member of VASA and know people, there was opportunity to socialize, but I'm not sure how much a new member would have gotten out of the Gathering activities.

Anyway, as I said, there was a VASA showcase on Friday night. I am too busy at work to have attempted to go to the workshops that the Culpeper Tells folks were having on Friday afternoon, so that was the first official event I was at. As it was, I left work early, which meade the drive reasonably tolerable, other than the several levels of hell involved in passing through Gainesville. I arrived at the host hotel (the Holiday Inn Express - let us just say that accomodations in Culpeper are limited) in time to run into other people who were planning to go to dinner at Luigi's. So I ended up joining in what I'd call an unofficial event. The food was about what one would expect of Italian food in rural Virginia. You may interpret that as you like.

The showcase had a djverse selection of tellers. It started with Mackenzie Vanover telling a fractured fairy tale. The story was amusing, but I found her style a bit more actorly than I'd prefer and I thought it would have been stronger if I could have understood all of the voices she used. Next up was Katie Ross with an interesting personal story about overcoming prejudices. Margaret Chatham did a fine job with a Scottish folk tale. Denise Bennett sang an Irish song and told about the first immigrant to enter the U.S. via Ellis Island. I found that story absolutely enthralling. Finally, Jennifer Jones told a personal story about trying to be cool and the power of storeis. All in all, it was a wide range of stories and styles. I should also mention Les Schaffer's good job of emceeing.

Saturday started with a short olio of the four featured tellers - Kim Weitkamp, Sheila Arnold, Linda Goodman, and Ed Stivender. Kim had told me that she was going to perform a new song based on a story I had told, which had me slightly apprehensive. It turned out fine - she had picked up on my very detailed sense of place in "The Secret Place" and used that in her vastly different childhood landscape. Linda, Ed, and Kim each had a solo set in the afternoon, and Sheila taught a workshop. Since her focus was on telling to children, I skipped that and minded the VASA table during that period (as well as through the second half of the lunch break). The evening ended with a post-dinner performance by all four featured tellers. I will not manage to remember everything I heard, but I want to especially note Linda's story in the evening concert, which involved a young woman who learns about the dangers of getting what you wish for, and Ed's rendition of a Mark Twain story about burglars.

Before dinner there was a story slam. We did not have a theme, but simply asked people to tell their best 5 minute story. I was one of the three judges and was pleased that the stories were mostly entertaining. Denise Bennett won, with Les Schaffer placing second and Gary Buchanan, a first time teller, placing third.

I will spare you details of the VASA meeting. It accomplished most of what it needed to, but, being a fan of following parliamentary procedure, I had some frustrations. The sacred story swap is normally not my sort of thing, but I was glad for the opportunity to pay tribute to Leslie Perry by telling "The Prize Mule," which was the first story I heard him tell and, sadly, the last. Puns are, to the probable dismay of other people, very much my thing.

Overall, it was a fun weekend. I think, however, that it would be better to have a separate VASA gathering, so that the focus would be on our members and connecting them, which was difficult with this format.

Culpeper Tells will return in 2015 and I already have it penciled in on my calendar.
Tags: storytelling

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