November 16, 2009

The LA Storytelling Fesitval

David O'Shea defines "fringe" at the storytelling festival.

Last Saturday was the LA storytelling festival and Jill and I graced them with our presence. It was great to see some faces we knew, like Ellen Switkes (Cornucopia) and David O'Shea and meet some new people. The festival was a combination of concerts (people performing their stories) and workshops about storytelling. I saw some great storytellers perform including Kathleen Zundell, who died in May of this year--through the miracle of technology she lives on. I also enjoyed Richard Marsh--Irish guy, nice beard. When he's not here touring festivals, his "real job" back in Ireland is to lead tour groups around and tell stories that happened in those places. Not a bad gig. If you have a chance to listen to him in person or on CD, do it.

Storytelling, I learned, includes not just personal narratives, but also fairy tales, folklore, myth, and anything else that one can tell that will keep people listening. Some tellers, as they are called, are captivating using only subtle gestures and movement--like Jonathan Solomon and Gordon Henderson. Others are big on performance and even use props, like Kristina Wong did in her story (she auctioned off items from her past that contained baggage in exchange for real and symbolic bids--it was a cool idea, though the audience didn't get it as well as she'd have liked.)

Overall, I think the festival struggled a little. I heard that there were a couple hundred people there, and none of the workshops or concerts were empty, but it felt oddly deserted or depressed. The catering was by Mort's hot dogs, and true, he did have veggie dogs, but come on--this is Los Angeles. This is a festival. Where is the movable feast? Also, the intermix of workshops and concerts felt schizophrenic. Either make it all stories and call it a festival or all workshops and call it a conference. But I digress. All in all, it was a great experience and maybe all it needs next year is about 200 more people to go and sit in the back row laughing their guts out.

I was just glad to see David, who I could listen to for hours, and Ellen, who looks duchess as all get out in dark sunglasses. I would tell you about David and his obsession with recording Veteran's stories, but I have asked him to write a guest post, so you will have the pleasure soon.

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