I’ve wanted to attend this festival for the last many years. I look at it, and it doesn’t happen. Last year I had even signed up for the story slam, but backed out the week before because of some conflict.
But with the clutter gone, it was easy to make this happen today.
I approached this festival differently than I do most things. I had been listening to some stocism podcasts on the way. Replete with “don’t worry about the things you can’t control” and “prepare yourself for things not going your way” mantras, I found myself smiling for several hours. Seriously. That is so good for me.
Normally, I would have soured quickly on what had happened as there were many things that weren’t quite right.
Like Judith Black, the leader of the morning workshop. She was so political! I was actually uncomfortable with the presentation. It’s funny how an uber-liberal presents as she wasn’t tolerant. She wasn’t fair. She wasn’t kind. But on top of it all, I couldn’t figure out what it had to do with storytelling. I guess I missed the line of the advertisement that said, “Mine personal stories and observations to address concerns about our stressed bio-sphere.”
I guess we did that.
I actually kind of liked the warm-up, which was much different than most. We first re-cast the chairs into a huge circle. Then we walked about the circle, changing direction often (Reminiscent of the “Dead Poets Society” scene at SAS). Next we paraded around and greeted each other with our eyes. After that we greeted each other by bumping our elbows. Then we had to greet one another with our name as we walked about. Then we had to greet one another with our name and where we were from. Then we greeted each other with our name and our favorite food. Then we greeted each other with our name and something that scares us.
It was during this set that I realized I was among people who were exuding their liberalism. “Sustainable foods” and other malarky were told to me as their favorite foods. Really? When I greeted Ms. Black and stated ribeye was my favorite food, she responded, “Good for the tummy but not the planet.” Several people introduced themselves to me that they were scared of intolerance to the planet in some fashion. Kind of a downer, methinks. I said, “haunted houses.”
From there we had to identify a personal story that launched our concern for the environment. Huh? I was becoming quite concerned. I played this out in my head: I am going to have to present a story orally to this group about this and I don’t have an agenda like the rest seemed to.
I opted for the horeshoe crab/red knot issue down here bayside. That seemed to work. It certainly worked better than the other stories I was hearing. My main partner was a young minister. He spoke to me (we had lots of share-out sessions) regarding his concern about environmental issues. It was all quite superficial; stuff that had no science to back it up (there are fewer animals now. Huh?). It would not hold up well. All the while Ms. Black made disparaging comment after comment to the group. “There’s no debate about global warming.” “I don’t even consider the global warming deniers.” Others got in the act too. Someone even evoked Fox News. Sigh . . .
Fortunately, the way the workshop went, we didn’t really have to present our story to the group. And I will say I did come up with a good image for a story. I don’t have the story down, but I see Albert getting out of an old beat-up pick-up at the beach wehre we used to do the oyster shells. It’s cloudy. He walks along the beach looking at the horseshoe crabs laying their eggs on the very small beach. He rights one or two that have turned over. He is wistful for the family fishing business he once had but had to abandon because the regulations on horseshoe crab being used as bait. He now mows lawns. That is where he came from and he is dirty from that job as he strolls the beach, caught between the water of where he wants to be and land where he has to be to pay the bills. Down one or two beaches at the same time is Larry Niles’s group banding the birds. That intersects the images of Albert strolling.
There’s a story there, but I don’t have it just yet. Good image though.
With the workshop over, it was time to leave the center and head out to the farm. The Howell Living History Farm is very nice! I strolled out to the forge to see the story slam. It was here that I realized we would be sitting on hay bales all day. Denise McCormack, the slam’s leader, was kind enough to offer a towel/blanket for me to sit on. Lots were provided at the various locations throughout the day. Nice!
The theme of the slam was “Hog Wild”. I had considered participating, but I didn’t have story that I thought fit. Not quite knowing the group and level of storytelling, I decided to be a spectator. I should have participated. Very few were really on-topic. One lady re-told Animal Farm. My skills and abilities fit right in with the tellers I heard.
I liked the event.
After that there were four sessions of storytelling at various locations on the farm (the willow tree, ice house, forge, and threshing floor). Each hour new tellers would present for 50 minutes. Some sessions had two tellers.
Hearing the story slam influenced which speakers I sought to listen. Based on who and what I could discern from the title of the speeches, I opted for the following presentations:
- G.K. Jayaram: Once Upon a Place
- Shirley Johnson: Hens and Roosters; MaryAnn & Maria: Last Minute Pranks
- Maria LoBiondo: Devil in the Details; MaryAnn Paterniti: Witchful Thinking
- Joey Novick: Road Kills; Denise McCormack: TBD
Jayaram told three stories at the ice house. He is Indian. The first was about his pet elephant growing up. It was a cute story. I enjoyed it. The second story did not do much for me. The third was quite interesting as he told a story about how he finds/helps his wife find her fallen contact lens and the troubles they encounter now that they are older. The ending didn’t quite work as he cut it off without providing the lesson he has learned about pleasing a wife. I think he was going for a funny moment there, but I believe it was lost upon the audience.
Shirley Johnson was good. She told children’s stories. There were children present. She had animals/props on painter’s sticks for the children to hold up during one of the stories. It was one where the rooster ended up with shit on his beak on his way to a wedding. He wanted the daisy to wipe it off, but she refused. So he tried to get a sheep to eat the daisy since it wouldn’t help. But it didn’t. There was a cat to bite the sheep. Then the dog was to chase the cat, a stick to beat the dog, a fire to burn the stick, water to put out the fire, and the sun to dry up the water. The sun said he would if the rooster would promise to cock-a-doodle doo thrice each mornig to wake up the sun since he had a tendancy to sleep in. Cute story. She also told an urban version of Chicken Little. I enjoyed that too!
MaryAnn & Maria were Maria LoBiondo and MaryAnn Paterniti. They alternated their stories. They were good, with LoBiondo presenting herself very well, I thought.
I then realized that my next session was going to be LoBiondo and Paterniti again. I hadn’t really put that together. There were other options, but I liked the idea of scary stories.
I was there early. There were photographs being taken of the previous tellers. As people stammered in, I listened to some of the patter. The photographer knew someone who came in. He said something along the line that he came to hear Maria. Then he re-positioned to where I could see him. When Maria showed up she acknowledge him with “Charlie”. I looked at him at that point and realized it was Charlie Stile.
The ladies presented. LoBiondo was very good. I liked Paterniti as well. She mentioned a book that she had found that she got one of the stories from that sounded promising. After the session I approached Charlie and introduced myself. I explained that I was from Cape May and knew his brother. We chatted some. That is when LoBiondo came over and joined the conversation. She and Stile are married! Wow! When she asked where I was from, she said she was from there too. She asked if I knew someone, whom I didn’t but offered that I knew Fran. Her SIL. Small world! Charlie took a photograph of me to send to John.
The last session was back at the ice house. There were only three sessions to select from. I think I would have liked hearing Rachael Harrington and Ingrid Bohn. Instead I heard Novick tell his Jewish humor stories. They were all right. McCormack was the one who had interested me. Unfortunately, I was not taken with her story. It was long and I lost interest early on. Then I realized I really didn’t know what the story was about so continued daydreaming.
While I spotted things that I would have done differently, etc., I was positive today. It was a good event. I know these are my people, even if they are so far away. This is the kind of storytelling I have wanted to do.
Back at the interpretive center, there was a culminating round-robin of 12 short stories told by 12 different tellers, pretty much the featured tellers of the day. Most of the stories were good.
I would be more than willing to return to this festival. I think I shall participate in the slam, if I do.