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  • Brandon Spars

The SF Free Folk Festival Virtually Pleases Everyone!


For what I believe is the fourth year (possibly the fifth) in a row, SAC contributed to the San Francisco Free Folk Festival, organized by Amelia Hogan and Daniel Hersh. This year was again on Zoom, but it still proved to be a lively and well attended event with audience members holding steady between thirty and fifty for the entire afternoon.


This year SAC decided to feature its three signature programs—Stories in Living Color, Genre Tales, and the Jenny Fund—as well as a showcase dedicated to Southern California tellers. I was this year's emcee for all six hours of programming, which might seem like a marathon, but it actually went by easily and smoothly. I am so proud and honored to be able to be closely involved with this yearly event.


Stories in Living Color kicked the six hours off with paired stories told by tellers of different races and ethnicities. The Black Lives Matter movement inspired board member Rick Roberts to launch this program last summer (shortly after the murder of George Floyd). Tellers work together to come up with a pair of stories that connect in some way, and, in so doing, learn from one another about their respective experiences as people of color or not. While the program originally started with Black and white pairings, it has branched into all different races and ethnicities. One of the pairs on Saturday featured Karin Amano and Roopa Mohan, who immigrated from Japan and India respectively. Board member Ben Tucker nailed another pair down with his story about "thick skin." He told his story with former board member Terry Stokes, who told about his fond memories of a family friend who was Black. SILC continues to go strong, and, adding fuel to the flame, Rick, Sara, and several others including myself will be presenting on SILC in a panel for the National Storytelling Network this summer sometime between July 21 and July 25. The panel will feature several of the pairs who have told over the course of this inaugural year.


The second panel was the Genre Tales Extravaganza, hosted by Ed Lewis. He featured seven different tellers, modeling that many different genres including folk and fairy tales, tall tales, scary and personal stories, and more. One of the many wonderful things about this panel was that each teller was representing a local swap. Therefore, in addition to modeling the different genres, Ed's panel was also showcasing the different swaps in our state from my own in Santa Rosa to the San Diego Swap down south. "Eddy Spaghetti" told a personal story woven into a scary story, one that he had shared with the Do Tell Story Swap several months ago.


In many ways, the Southern California Showcase was the highlight of the day. Hosted by Marilyn McPhie and Tina Tomiyama, the panel featured top notch tellers from LA and San Diego. This was particularly fulfilling because it helped promote the increased effort to bring the two halves of our enormous state together. Marilyn and Tina have been instrumental in that process, and I hope they continue to work in and with the board to make this happen. Zoom has been wonderful for this, and we somehow need to keep that unity we have developed virtually as we move forward to in person events.


Finally, we had the Jenny Fund. This is a program dedicated to bringing storytellers to the classroom, especially in underserved schools. This year we worked with fifth graders in the San Jose Unified District. There were four assemblies with over ten performances. I felt very lucky to have done one and been selected for the Folk Festival, along with Ben Tucker and Eleanor Clement Glass. Roopa hosted, and there was time for her to tell a story at the end. She told the origin myth of Durga, which went nicely with my story, "CHUD was one angry mother."


Organizing the SAC Storytelling Room was easy because I work with such willing and generous people. The hosts arranged and communicated with their respective panels, so I simply had to communicate with the hosts. In fact, I spent most of my time sitting back and enjoying the stories.


The SF Free Folk Festival has such a warm and welcoming atmosphere even in Zoom. The audience was all smiles and the chat was positive and appreciative. I was quite pleased to see members from the Do Tell Story Swap in the audience, and, of course, nothing pleases me more than bringing SAC together with all of the local swaps it aims to serve. Storytelling is, I believe, about connecting people together, from their local community to the state, all the way to our great nation.


The Storytelling Association of California Presents A Day of Events at The 2021 San Francisco Free Folk Festival, Saturday, June 12, 2021