So what the heck IS storytelling, anyway?
I've said it before on this blog, I'm so lucky to be part of a wonderful--and growing!--storytelling guild, the Bluff Country Talespinners. We've grown, but awareness of just what storytelling looks like continues to be a process. Last week, we had a wonderful opportunity to help "grow" the storytelling audience.
In two weeks, our guild will host the Third Annual LaCrosse Storytelling Festival. The festival was started by a small group who wanted to develop a unique fundraiser for the area Citizen's Advocacy program. Storytelling festivals, unfortunately, are not known for their fundraising ability, largely because of that awareness issue. Still, there is a small but dedicated audience who supports the festival. We've done a number of things to try and build awareness. One has been to provide storytelling at area events. I have written elsewhere about some such events, most noteably "the gig I could have skipped." Though people who stop enjoy hearing the stories, they aren't at these events for the purpose of hearing stories, and often miss out as they wander by. This may not be the best approach to building appreciation for the art.
Last Wednesday, however, it would seem we hit our stride. "Stories under the tent" was a wonderful evening event, made possible largely through the very generous offer of Mariel Carlisle, who owns one of the famous lumber baron "castles" on one of the main streets of LaCrosse. Anyone who lives here is curious about these homes, most of which are still private homes, all three floors, 3000 square feet per floor of them. Mrs. Carlisle made her home available to us for a garden party type event, with the additional treat of home tours.
I was not able to tell at this event. I always seem to miss the meetings where the cool gigs come up, but before I complain too loudly, remind me that I was in Spain at the time of that meeting!
Still, I made hor d'ouerves, I came and helped set up, I helped take down. Most of all, I enjoyed the stories.
I was not the only one who enjoyed the stories. The tent was fairly full, with many people just wandering up upon seeing all the signs on the street. More than once, people commented, "I never knew there was something like this happening here!" I actually had a column in the local paper telling people there was something like this happening here, but there is a vast gulf between reading about it and taking in the images of a story as it's told.
Informal conversations afterwards suggest that many of us feel that events like this are not only a good way to raise funds to maintain fiscal responsibility for the festival, but perhaps the best way to grow our audience as well. Gardens can grow flowers, yes, but they can also grow appreciation for the storytelling revival as practiced in the Coulee Region.