Let me tell you a story
Storytelling fest has 26th anniversary at Fort Edmonton Park this weekend
By: Scott Hayes
| Posted: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 06:00 am
Fort Edmonton Storytelling Festival
Friday, May 23 to Sunday, May 25
Fort Edmonton Park
Most events free along with admission to park.
Friday evening Story Slam starts at 7:30 p.m. at Expressionz Café. Doors open at 6:30 for café service. Tickets: $10 at the door.
Tristan and Iseult
Performed by Melanie Ray
Saturday May 24, 2014, 8 p.m.
Capitol Theatre, Fort Edmonton Park
Tickets: $20 each
Festival also includes two workshop opportunities on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon
Registrations for either Crack Me Up or Your Life as History are $50 each.
For more information, contact festival producer Renée Englot at 780-884-1714 or visit www.storyfestalberta.ca.
Once upon a time, there was a festival of people telling stories to young and old alike. It was so popular that it happened every year at Fort Edmonton, itself a place where many stories have started. The end.
It’s actually just the beginning. The tales will surely run tall and long at this weekend’s Fort Edmonton Storytelling Festival.
The Alberta League Encouraging Storytelling, also known by its acronym TALES, has a solid lineup of storytellers who will spin some yarns for all ages starting on Friday. Former CBC reporter Kathy Jessup has made it her life’s mission to tell stories. She knows full well the power of the spoken word and the value of a tale well told.
She said that she’s the perfect person for the job.
“I was the kind of kid who never shut up!” she joked.
For more than two decades, she has made a living as a professional storyteller for all ages. She also puts on writing workshops for children. There’s no shortage of demand because people love stories.
“I’m as busy as I can handle it,” she said, adding that she now performs internationally. Not bad, especially since she started simply making stories up for her kids.
“If you’re a broadcast journalist or a print journalist, you have to have an audience.”
That grew and grew until people booked her in for teachers’ conventions and then at schools. Teachers, she said, are also the best advertisers because if they love you, they tell their friends. “And if they don’t love you, they tell their friends! The word spreads. A lot of my business is word of mouth.”
She’ll have her hands full this weekend, as she’s also the artistic director of the fest. When she isn’t making sure that everything is running smoothly, she’ll be offering workshops for kids and, of course, telling a story or two.
“That’s the fun part!”
Jessup will be sharing an all-ages set with Mary Ann Lippiatt called A Mouthful of Trouble. Both performers will tell stories, some of which are based on folk tales. It’s about when your mouth gets you into trouble, she said, confessing that she’s the best person to tell that story.
“I grew up in a family of six kids, and four of them were boys. We were always in trouble.”
She also has a performance for school groups on Friday evening. It’s a “fractured fairy tale” where the audience helps her with the sound effects.
“People look at me like I’m nuts. We’re going to have several hundred kids doing sound effects on cue while I’m trying to tell the story. You just watch! You rehearse them ahead of time and then on you go. They’re so eager to please and so into the story that they literally put those sound effects in on your cue. If the story is good enough then they want to help. They don’t want to ruin it.”
There will be a “Story Slam” for the first time, a great event for the Friday night kick off.
“I call it Storytelling Unplugged,” Jessup stated, excited to see how it all plays out. Performers are often people who love to read their own work but this one is special because you can’t use written notes.
“There’s no crutch. You just gotta get up there and tell that story. It’s like flying with a cape.”
Headliner Megan Hicks will be at the fest too. She is an “awesome slammer,” Jessup said. Hicks will also lead a workshop on Saturday morning on how people can create personal stories using world history and pop culture as structure.
Vancouver’s Melanie Ray will do a Saturday night one-woman performance of Tristan and Iseult. Jessup described it as “a medieval soap opera … like Greek tragedies where there’s blood and gore and love and death and incest and betrayal. People say, ‘It’s not a play so how can one woman hold your attention?’ I’ve seen her do it. It’s awesome! You’re just literally hanging on the words.”
Ray will also have a daytime show about Emily Carr.
Jessup hopes that this weekend will surpass the popularity of 25th festival that happened last year.
“We thought that was the pinnacle and maybe we’d never do one as exciting but I’m really thrilled with the line-up this year. It’s going to be great.”
Festival producer Renée Englot agreed.
“There’s a whole variety of things from shows for young children to musically involved ones. There’s some neat things planned.”
“It’ll be interesting. This is the first year that we’re in spring. We’ve always been the Labour Day weekend. We’re excited to be expanding and trying some new things.”
The change also allowed for extra school programming. Englot herself will also have a children’s set that will get lots of audience participation. That takes place on Saturday afternoon.