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  • Brandon Spars

Summer Stories


Two great storytelling events went virtual: the National Storytelling Network Conference and the San Francisco Free Folk Festival on June 3 and and June 13 respectively.


I was lucky to have been asked to participate in the Pacific Regional Showcase, hosted by Marilyn McPhie. The tellers included Linda Yemoto, which was especially sweet because she is this year's Regional Gem. Her performance will be July 18. You can get more info at http://www.storysaac.org/.

At the Regional Showcase, Linda told a great story about a large python that swallows a person and then eats some grass to help digest it. When a young man witnesses this, he enters a noodle eating contest. When he eats the grass to help him digest the noodles so that he can continue to eat, he disappears. The grass actually dissolves human flesh! Linda told this creepy traditional story with great sound effects, including the slithering of the enormous serpent, and the slippery sound of noodles as they shoot through one's lips. 

I finally told the Loro Kidul story, which includes the shipwreck in Pulau Seribu scene within it (told at the Moth as "Caution"). My favorite part of the story is on the beach when the captain does a head count only to find an "extra passenger," the old lady who may have been the incarnation of this South Seas Goddess. I am not sure how Marilyn McPhie was reacting to the story. She didn't say a word after I finished, other than "Wow..." I am not sure whether it was a positive "wow," or not.

The SF Folk Festival was different, of course, without the music wafting down the hallway and the people walking around with harmonicas and banjos. Our SAC info table has been quite the center of attention over the years, as we have served as an info booth for the festival rather than just our own organization.

Pamela Reinagel was the only workshop presenter who bravely ventured forth into the virtual rendition of the festival. She sang beautiful ballads for an hour, some tragic some humorous. I could see many people nodding and sometimes singing along in the Zoom squares. We had about seventy in the audience for both parts of the festival. The second half was paired tellings, traditional tales with personal stories. In introduced each pair along with the theme they had developed. The themes ranged from "Taboo" to "Trouble with Love" to "It's you, not me" to "True Beauty." I was touched by the fact that when I asked tellers, they agreed to participate. Big thanks to Sharon Elwell, Sara Armstrong, Rick Roberts, Liz Nichols, Kay DeMartini, Dana Sherry, and Tim Ereneta. This was a powerhouse cast of tellers, and they didn't disappoint. 

I wondered if each pair having a separate theme was a bit boggling for the audience. It felt like we would move on to a different theme too quickly, and, ultimately, I think the themes were lost. However, the rewarding part was prior to the concert as the pairs worked together. I had great conversations with Dana, my partner, and we rehearsed together. It is my hope that other pairs had the same experience. Dana and I influenced each other quite a bit from Dana completely changing which folktale she was telling to my enhancing a different part of the story (moving away from a gross out story about a sandwich to a touching story about respecting a homeless professor). My telling even employed some of the language of Dana's, such as the word "loathsome," which referred to a woman that the protagonist marries in her tale.

The event was very bittersweet because of the passing of Jeff Byers, who was originally slated to tell a folktale. Shags, the brave tech host of the event, prepared a beautiful slide show, which included many photos of the Epic Day group. Cathryn Fairlee was among the faces as well. May they both live on through the stories that they loved. I met them both late in their lives, but they truly touched my life.

 

©2019 by Brandon Spars