by Sharon Haddock | Apr 12, 2022 | About Storytelling, Festival, Storytellers
“Every story I tell is true—except for the parts that I make up,” quips Donna Washington, who will make her first in-person appearance at the 2022 Timpanogos Storytelling Festival to be held in Lehi, Utah’s Ashton Gardens at Thanksgiving Point, September 8-10.
Washington has told stories professionally for 34 years. “I do a lot of telling,” she said. Her TSF debut was originally slated for 2020, but due to the pandemic, her stories were enjoyed only online. Donna, as well as Festival audiences, are thrilled she’ll be with us this year!
“My favorite part of storytelling is when you develop an awareness of each other. It’s really hard to hate someone if you know their story because that’s what stories do, they allow you to stand in other people’s shoes.”
Donna went to Northwestern University to study theater, but at the end of the trimester she found herself enrolled in two graduate classes that included storytelling.
“Surprise!” she said. She ended up being mentored by a professional and has since become renowned for her storytelling to both children and adults, including stories that are poignant and funny to race relationships. She is also well known for her spine-tingling tales of terror.
“It’s the only job I’ve ever had and there are days when it feels like work!” She said, describing a time she was telling stories to students with one in the audience who wanted “to be lippy.” Once she invited him to be “Heckedy Peg” in her story, he became a friend and a part of the story.
“I’m looking forward to seeing people,” [following the pandemic] she said. “It’s like coming home. I’ve been missing live audiences.”
In her storytelling career, Washington has been featured at numerous festivals, schools, libraries, theaters, and other venues around the world including Canada, Peru, Argentina, and Hong Kong.
During the pandemic, she presented over two hundred virtual shows and workshops and co-founded the non-profit organization Artists Standing Strong Together with Master Storyteller Sheila Arnold.
Donna’s eleven storytelling CDs have garnered 30 national awards and she has written numerous articles about storytelling and education, including her popular blog, Language, Literacy and Storytelling. She has published four children’s books, with her fifth to be released in September 2023. Her first adult book, “The Men of Kent Street,” is to be published later this year, focusing on the suppression of black Americans, voting laws, and white riots.
Donna resides in Durham, North Carolina, with her husband and two cats.
by Sharon Haddock | Mar 29, 2022 | About Storytelling, Festival, Storytellers
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!”
by Sharon Haddock | Mar 15, 2022 | About Storytelling, Festival
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.
by Sharon Haddock | Sep 9, 2021 | About Storytelling, Blog, featurepic, Festival
What did you love most about the 2020 Olympics? While it’s thrilling to watch the close wins and cheer for your team, it’s the stories we remember most. We love hearing the stories of overcoming personal trials and hardships, stories of triumph in spite of family and personal challenges, and stories of the incredible amount of work that goes into winning an Olympic medal.
While stories may be the obvious connection, here are some other things the 2020 Olympics and this year’s Timpanogos Storytelling Festival have in common.
Both events bring people together and connect them emotionally and socially with no regard to color, nation of origin, or socio-economic backgrounds.
The 32nd Olympiad, held in July 2021, was a highlight, not just for the athletes who trained and worked tirelessly to reach personal goals, but also for their families and friends who shared their journey.
The 32nd annual Timpanogos Storytelling Festival (Sept. 9-11, 2021) also represents the dreams and ambitions of people who communicate stories of love, courage, and humor一causing the hardships of a pandemic, unrest, and global confusion to fall into the background for just a little while. We celebrate coming together through common goals and find joy in the everyday triumphs and small victories.
The Olympic back stories of sacrifice, mentoring, and guidance remind us that everything worth achieving is remarkable and of significant worth一the parents who paid for lessons and practice time, the coaches who taught athletes to get back up and try again, the achievements over injury and pain.
The Olympics started in 1896 in Athens, Greece, and this year drew an international television audience of 15.1 million.
The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, which began in Alan and Karen Ashton’s Orem, Utah backyard with an idea discovered by Karen at a national festival, drew a few hundred participants. Last year’s audience, combining virtual attendees and in-person listeners in schools and community conferences, numbered in the thousands.
Like the athletes who join those from other nations at the Olympics, listeners at the Festival are transported to all parts of the globe, gaining experience and understanding of cultures and people they may never have the chance to know in person. And that brings us all a little closer together.
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by Sharon Haddock | Sep 9, 2021 | About Storytelling, Blog, Featured, Festival, Scheduled, Storytellers
Andy Offutt Irwin really likes to tell his fictional stories involving his 85-year-old, widowed, aunt, Marguerite VanCamp, a newly minted physician. He talks with humor and candor about aging and growth, even amongst the aged.
Since he is from Georgia, he also likes telling stories about the area and the people, addressing the issues that pertain to the “New South” and the social changes occurring therein.
His stories are flavored with humor and framed on truth. “Good fiction must be framed in truth, even if one is not dwelling completely in fact,” he said.
“My characters are developed in such a way that they inform me of what they need to say. This is truer than you can imagine.”
Fellow storyteller Ed Stivender told Irwin he loves how he protects and takes good care of his characters in his stories.
Irwin started out in a comedy troupe that provided shows to Walt Disney World: SAK Theatre. He performed, wrote and directed with them but failed to find the connection there he wanted with people.
He started working as a teaching artist with “Young Audiences of Atlanta” when he met storyteller Carmen Agra Deedy. She pitched the idea of storytelling to Irwin. He had done some stand-up and performing but hadn’t considered storytelling. He tried it and was soon invited to the National Storytelling Festival which turned out to be a life changing experience.
He describes himself as a humorist who listens to his audience and is working on his “funny.”
“I utterly live on the reaction of an audience,” adds Irwin. “Although I have dabbled in radio and television, I have been a live performer all my life. The audiences’ reactions inform me as to what is working, what is heard and understood, and what needs adjusting. The laughter I listen for tells me that the people are present with me in the story.
“Laughter is “the sound of comprehension,” he shares.
He was awarded the 2013 National Storytelling Network Circle of Excellence Award.