I had arrived at my destination. It was a strange neighborhood, someone else’s home. I parked on the street, turned off the car and sat, listening…listening, smiling, crying, and laughing. My drive may have ended but The Old Man and Other Stories, a cassette tape of recorded stories by Syd Lieberman, hadn’t. I had no choice. Physically I was in my parked car, but mentally I was soaring in a world of hope, surprise, and second chances I didn’t want to leave. I had to hear the last two stories.
This was my introduction to Syd Lieberman; a storyteller extraordinaire, a man who knows life is full of hard knocks but also knows hope is what makes the world beautiful and that you keep hope alive by opening your heart.
Syd’s stories have heart. He can’t help it. It is who he is. He is filled with the wonder of life and its tender mercies. Whether telling Jewish folktales, stories of growing up and raising a family in Chicago, the processes of scientific exploration and discovery, or giving voice to individuals long gone, Syd finds and shares elements demonstrating mankind’s potential for rising above the norm even if it is for only a moment. These moments, like Syd’s stories, build on each other offering us a new and brighter perspective.
But this isn’t all. With enviable panache, Syd tells classic literary tales of the macabre. From Beowulf to Chaucer to Poe, Syd can make your goose bumps pop and your breath gasp. The aura he creates during these stories is so powerful it was no surprise one year when all the lights at Mt. Timpanogos Park shorted out at the climax of his story during the Festival’s Shivers in the Night program!
Syd’s ability to find and share the soul of a story and of showcasing the story rather than himself is why Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the Smithsonian, the National Air and Space Museum, NASA, and the Van Andel Museum each commissioned Syd to tell their stories. Syd, and his wife Adrienne’s collaboration in creating stories about the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Civil War, and the Gettysburg Address led to their current assignment of creating stories for the US Capitol Visitors Center with Syd teaching their 180 docents and volunteers how to tell those stories.
With four Notable Children’s Recordings awards from the American Library Association, three Gold Awards from Storytelling World Magazine, two Gold Awards from Parents’ Choice, Chicago’s Golden Apple Award for excellence in teaching, and opportunities to teach and perform on stages from Disney World to the Kennedy Center, Syd is the perfect example that it is possible to grow up without losing the magical awe and humility present in childhood.
This summer, enjoy the stories of Syd Lieberman. It will strengthen your heart.
With so many evening events throughout the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, we thought you’d enjoy learning about what will be happening at this year’s Festival—especially for those of you who are new to the Festival.
Free Concert with Josh Goforth
The Shops at Riverwoods
Wednesday, August 28, 7 p.m.
That’s right! Before we officially kick off the Festival, we are pleased to present a FREE concert with one of our national storytellers. Join Josh Goforth, a 2010 Grammy Award nominee in the category of Traditional Folk, at the Riverwoods Gazebo as he weaves folk music into stories straight from his Appalachian Mountains. You won’t want to miss this early chance to listen to Josh fiddle around. (Check back on our blog this Monday, August 26, for a little more about this fantastic new teller.)
Look Who’s Talking (tickets $8.00; included in weekend pass)
Mt. Timpanogos Park
Thursday, August 29, 7 p.m.
This is one of our favorite ways to introduce friends and family to storytelling and is also a great way for veteran Festival attendees to get to know our new tellers. All of our national tellers will be telling at this event; however, with three different lineups in three different tents, you will have to do a little picking and choosing on whom you decide to see this evening. Come at 6 p.m. for a pre-show concert by The Hot Club of Zion. New this year: Surefire Pizza, Wallaby’s, Costa Vida, and Marble Slab Creamery will be serving up dinner and dessert in the food court from 5–7:30 p.m. With limited onsite parking available, we highly recommend that attendees take the free shuttles to and from the event.
Bedtime Stories (tickets $8.00; included in weekend pass)
Mt. Timpanogos Park
Friday, August 30, 6:30 p.m.
Especially for young children, this fun event features tellers on both the national (Carmen Deedy, Ed Stivender, and Laura Pershin Raynor) and youth levels sharing bedtime stories. Join us before the show at 6 p.m. for a puppet show and make sure you stay to the end of the telling for the donuts! The show starts at 6:30 p.m. and takes place in the Bonneville and River Trail tents at Mt. Timpanogos Park—all three national tellers will be telling in both tents. Don’t forget to grab dinner before the stories begin. Tucanos, Surefire Pizza, Hickory Kist Deli, and Marble Slab Creamery will all be on hand in the food court from 5–7 p.m. Parking onsite is extremely limited, so plan on taking the shuttles to and from the event.
My Favorite Stories (tickets $8.00; included in weekend pass)
Friday, August 30, 8:00 p.m.
Join tellers Bill Lepp, Kim & Reggie Harris, Barbara McBride-Smith, Andy Offutt Irwin, and Donald Davis at the SCERA Shell as they tell their favorite stories. Come at 7 p.m. for the pre-show featuring a local, all-girl act Blue Aces, and don’t forget to bring a blanket to sit on.
Shivers in the Night (tickets $8.00; not included in weekend pass)
Mt. Timpanogos Park
Friday, August 30, 9:00 p.m.
Whether you are ready for a good scare or just need an excuse to cuddle up with a date, join us for our spookiest stories. Not only do we have scary stories to offer, we will be setting them off to dramatic effect in the after-hours of the darkened Mt. Timpanogos Park. You can choose between one of two tents with a slightly different line-up offered in each tent with all our tellers promising their creepy best. We do not recommend that young children attend this event but do recommend that you dress warm as it does cool down during the evening. As parking onsite is limited (are you catching the message?), please plan on taking the shuttles to and from the event.
Last Laugh (tickets $10.00; included in weekend pass)
Mt. Timpanogos Park
Saturday, August 31, 8:00 p.m.
This is one of our most popular events and is a great way to finish off the weekend. As seating is limited, you will want to get your tickets early. (Although this event is included in the weekend pass, you will need to specify at the time of purchase between a ticket to this event and Laughin’ Night). Join Bil Lepp, Andy Offutt Irwin, Ed Stivender, Liz Weir, Carmen Deedy, Geraldine Buckley, Laura Pershin Raynor, and Donald Davis at Mt. Timpanogos Park as they share their funniest tales. This event is very similar to Laughin’ Night with the notable difference of it taking place under a tent and in chairs. Join us at 7 p.m. for a pre-show concert by The Souvenirs—seats are available on a first come first serve basis so you might as well come early and catch some great music before the telling begins. Wallaby’s, Costa Vida, Hickory Kist Deli, and Marble Slab Creamery will be serving dinner in the food court from 5–8 p.m. Once again, onsite parking is limited, so please plan on taking the shuttles to and from the event.
Laughin’ Night (tickets $10.00; included in weekend pass)
Saturday, August 31, 8:00 p.m.
Like Last Laugh, this is another of our most popular events and, because of this, we advise that you arrive early and bring a blanket to stake your claim to a spot on the hill at the SCERA Shell (ticket office opens at 6:00; gates open at 6:30). Join Donald Davis, Syd Lieberman, Barbara McBride-Smith, Kim & Reggie Harris, Josh Goforth, Andy Offutt Irwin, Ed Stivender, and Bil Lepp as they share their funniest stories (you’ll notice it is a slightly different lineup than at Last Laugh). As with Last Laugh, though this event is included in the weekend pass, you will need to specify at the time of purchase between a ticket to this event and Last Laugh.
**Slight note on parking for all events held at Mt. Timpanogos Park: as in years past, limited parking will be available onsite for vehicles with four or more individuals on a first-come, first-served basis. Handicap parking is also available onsite for those with a handicap permit. Please visit our event logistics page for additional information on parking and shuttles.
One reason we love story, whether telling or listening, is that story can send us into the past where we learn about where we came from and about how we arrived where we are today. And if we’re smart, we will let that knowledge guide us to where we want to be tomorrow. This year’s Timpanogos Storytelling Festival features three storytellers who will take us back to the annuls of history, teach us a little about how far we have come, and remind us that the bravery and courage that has brought us this far is still required.
Syd Lieberman, a long-time Festival favorite, returns once again and brings with him a special performance of his piece, “Abraham & Isaac: Sacrifice at Gettysburg.” Created by Syd and his wife Adrienne in honor of the bicentennial of President Abraham Lincoln’s birth and recounted this year in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the piece is a recounting of the Battle of Gettysburg as seen through the eyes of Private Isaac Taylor. The performance culminates in the speech given by President Lincoln, called “Father Abraham” by the soldiers, to honor the sacrifice of those who fought on that hallowed ground—“my boys” as they were called by the President. Based largely on the detailed diary kept by Private Taylor, this piece will draw you through the horrors of war and its bloodiest battle with compassion, honor, and courage. The sweeping scope and beauty of this piece will be one of the true must-see hours of our Festival.
Additionally, we are thrilled to introduce two new faces to our Festival: Kim and Reggie Harris, a dynamic husband and wife team. Raised in Philadelphia, PA, Kim and Reggie were each introduced at a young age to diverse genres of music—from Classical to Rock to Jazz. After meeting in college, the two began to polish their talents first at local coffee houses and then in schools and concerts around the country. Now as widely acclaimed musicians and storytellers, they have developed a collection of stories and songs chronicling African-American history from the Underground Railroad through the Civil Rights Era. Drawing on historical figures, such as Harriet Tubman, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and some lesser-known individuals, Kim and Reggie tell these stories and share songs with wit and infectious laughter as well as profound respect.
We look forward to sharing a tent with you at our Festival as we present these tellers of stories and songs recounting some of the history that dramatically formed and changed our country.
This post was originally published in the Utah Storytelling Guild’s newsletter Taleswapper (July 2013)
Bil Lepp is an amazing storyteller and an even better liar. I have listened to his stories for years, and every single time, he hooks me right from the very beginning. He gets on stage wearing blue jeans, a tucked-in t-shirt, and a ball cap. He’s an average all-American guy that looks like your brother or your next-door neighbor. He puts his hands in his pockets and just starts telling you about something that happened when he was young. Within the first few minutes of one of his stories, I will think to myself, “Well, this is believable. Maybe he’s actually telling a true story this time.” And then, a few more minutes into it, when he tells about he and his friend Skeeter dressing up in their homemade deer costumes during the deer hunt season, you quickly realize he’s tricked you again. And at that point, the lies become more and more outrageous by the minute, and you will find yourself laughing harder than you ever remember laughing.
I would be surprised if there were three people in this world who know Bil Lepp better than my children. They have grown up with him, whether it was listening to him in the shaded tents at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, reading his books as a family, or falling asleep to his recordings. Here’s what they have to say about Bil’s storytelling:
Janessa (17) “Saying that Bil Lepp’s stories are dull and unimaginative would be a big, fat lie… As are most of his stories.”
Harrison (14) “Storytelling is one thing. Sucking the audience into hilarious stories, true or false, and making them roll on the floor laughing like crazy is quite another. That’s the kind of storyteller Bil Lepp is.”
Nathan (11) “I like Bil Lepp for sharing his ingenious ideas, like JELL-O balloons, and teaching us new ways to use the library.”
If you haven’t ever heard Bil Lepp tell his tall tales, the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival is the best place to see him in action. Our listeners adore him, and he always brings his newest and best stories to share with our audiences, which consist of fans that range from young to old. Make sure you arrive at his tent early because most of his hours are standing room only!
It was a lovely October day in Jonesborough, Tennessee, several years ago when my Timpanogos Storytelling friends and I attended the National Storytelling Festival. We wandered into a tent where Andy Offutt Irwin was making his debut on the national storytelling scene. There he stood—a tallish, youngish, lanky fellow with straw-colored hair spinning stories about the crazy antics of his elderly, southern Aunt Marguerite, who also just happened to be a doctor. We were charmed as we sat through story after story, one more impossibly funny than the next. We watched as crowds followed him from one performance tent to another throughout the festival. He made a big hit with the Jonesborough storytelling audiences who had come to appreciate and understand good storytelling through the years. And Andy, we concurred, would be a big hit with the well-seasoned storytelling audiences of the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. So we invited him to be one of our feature tellers at the next Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. That year a new favorite teller was born at Timpanogos!
Andy evokes a sort of Robin Williams’ flair for the spontaneous and outrageous, taking a seemingly simple story to a most unexpected outcome. He surprised all of us in one of his storytelling sets by bringing a group of children on stage and working them into his act by using his remarkable whistling ability while bonking them on the head with a toy mallet. Surprises? Andy is full of them!