Thursday, November 18, 2010

Storytellers Festival starts tonight!

I'm off tonight to the Mayfair to see Ivan Coyote's You Are Here (also performing: Rae Spoon) - the first event of the Ottawa Storytelling Festival. The Storytelling Festival's been revamped, rethought, rejiggered and relaunched for the 21st century, and the program is a great mix of traditional and nontraditional tales. They'll be featuring everything from a retelling of Frankenstein to a celebration of traditional Newfoundland stories, and taking in spoken word poetry, history, personal stories and native legends on the way.

Storytelling is a rapidly reviving art in this town: at least, I'm seeing more and more of it. The Shenkman Centre hosts a series of outside-the-box telling, the Fourth Stage series continues at the NAC, the Billings Estate series brings history alive with storytelling theatre, and this upcoming Festival looks like it's going to kick it out of the park. The city's first Story Slam, Once Upon a Slam, just got rolling last month - and there will be a story slam workshop at the Festival for anyone who's curious about that particular kind of short-form, competitive storytelling. (Think competitive storytelling is a brand new wacky modern idea? Think again, and go find a copy of the Canterbury Tales.)

Storytelling isn't like reading, and it's certainly not just for kids. This isn't going to be 'storytime at the library.' (Not that I need to tell most readers of this blog that.) There is something immersive about live storytelling - more so than readings, I find. It's part of a storyteller's job to interact with the audience, to gauge her listeners and shape the story to fit the room, and that has the effect of making the whole experience that much more intense. If you haven't had someone tell you a story in a while, I highly recommend it. I'd be inclined to argue that it's built into our brains to listen to a voice weaving a story. It might even be good for our brains. It certainly feels that way to me.

Anyway, I can't wait to hear Ivan Coyote tonight. I've been a fan for years. Mayfair Theatre, doors at 6:00, show at 7:00: you can't get tickets in advance - sales at the door only - so expect to line up!

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