Donald Davis is not only a seasoned and beloved storyteller at festivals across the country (including the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival since its second year), he entertains audiences with apparent ease and he’s sensitive to stuffed animals.
When Willy Claflin was telling a story in Jonesborough, Tennessee, that included his stuffed sidekick Maynard Moose, Davis decided Maynard needed an interpreter—as well as Claflin. He joined in on stage using the backup moose Claflin keeps nearby in case the real Maynard can’t tell his Mother Moose stories.
“Maynard needed somebody to sign for him, so I did that,” Davis said. “It was really fun. Willy couldn’t see him, so he couldn’t do anything to stop it, and everyone was laughing.”
Often, storytellers like Bil Lepp and Bill Harley will “interrupt” each other during their stories and kick up the comedy a notch. No one seems to mind—in fact, it’s often the highlight of the performance!
The camaraderie that develops between storytellers as they travel from festival to festival over the years is only one reason Davis loves the circuit. He also believes in the magic that happens with storytelling between the audience and the tellers.
“I’m so happy to be back (following the pandemic that created a need for festivals to meet virtually in 2020)!” Davis exclaims. “We all are.”
Davis said it’s hard to write and hone new stories without a live audience. “I couldn’t do new stuff with a camera. I’ve done a lot of writing during the past two years but without an audience, it’s difficult to get the timing.”
He said the festival schedule is now basically back to normal and people are coming back. “That was the big question, would people come back? The answer is, yes! And more!”
Davis will be featured at this year’s event slated to run September 8-10 at the Thanksgiving Point Ashton Gardens in Lehi, Utah.
Donald’s first festival appearance was at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee, 42 years ago. From then on, he’s kept busy telling stories, conducting workshops, and traveling the United States.
“I didn’t choose to be a storyteller. I simply grew up in the North Carolina mountains in a world that was pre-television, with relatives who still did not even have electricity. There was a lot of visiting on porches and in living rooms and kitchens. I didn’t even know it was called storytelling!” Davis explains. “Storytelling is just what happened to and for me!”
LEHI—This year’s storytelling festival—the 2022 Timpanogos Storytelling Festival—welcomes Ed Stivender as its Master of Ceremonies, along with live audiences, new tellers, and popular favorites.
Stivender, described by some as the “Robin Williams” of storytelling, will introduce several storytelling segments and entertain audiences with his trademark wit and wisdom. He has performed at the National Storytelling Festival, the Cape Clear Island International Storytelling Festival in Ireland, and in schools, theaters, and churches around the world.
He’ll welcome a line-up that includes veteran teller and Festival favorite, Donald Davis, Willy Claflin and his sidekick Maynard Moose (to be joined by the clone moose, Boris “with a B,”), and Tim Lowry, performing since he was six; along with Nestor “The Boss” Gomez; naturalist and herbalist, Doug Elliott; Orem storyteller Randy Evensen; Simon Brooks, whose mother says he’s been telling stories since he was a toddler; Regi Carpenter, whose list includes a personal story of recovery; Bluegrass musician Josh Goforth, already playing the piano at four years old; Lyn Ford, an Affrilachian teller of “home-fried tales;” Megan Wells, described by her children as a storytelling jukebox; and author Donna Washington who has told stories for 34 years and who has a book on racial sensitivity coming out this year. Watch for in-depth Storyteller Spotlights to be published every other week beginning on March 29.
Stephanie Ashton oversees storyteller research and invitations. “Each year we try to invite a variety of storytellers who tell different genres and use different styles. We try to include some music every year as well. We keep an eye out for new tellers and we look at Festival favorites who are still doing great work in the storytelling world. We then sit down as a board and decide who we want to invite,” Ashton said.
As in the recent past, this year’s Festival will include the opportunity for patrons to participate in pottery-making, enjoy live musical performances, and delight in puppet and magic shows.
Tickets to the Festival (for in-person and online viewing) are now on sale at TimpFest.org.
Ashton expects this year’s Festival to not only feature live storytelling, music, and other entertainment, it will afford audiences the opportunity to gather once again with audience members and storytellers following the constraints of a pandemic.
The storytellers are enthused about getting back together and to be in front of a live audience once more.
“I missed it terribly,” said Claflin. “We all felt it. The storytelling experience is utter joy!”
“I need this. It gives me a chance to combine my acting with storytelling,” Lowry said.
Make plans now to enjoy storytelling in the Gardens September 8-10, 2022, and online a few weeks later.