Lehigh Valley Storytelling Festival

Back at home - tired and happy - after a wonderful week-end in Bethlehem, PA for the Lehigh Valley Storytelling Festival. It was a very full week-end.

The Friday evening story concert was at Godfrey Daniel's Coffeehouse - a good place for storytelling - seats more than 75 but still feels intimate, and its a warm, cozy atmosphere where you can feel a connection between teller and audience.

In an early pre-concert Charles Kiernan performed as Mark Twain. He actually favors Twain, add to that his luxurious head of long white hair, period white suit ,and stogie - he becomes Twain. It was as if Samuel Clemmons had risen up and come to give one of his famous recitations. I enjoyed the style and presentation, as well as the humor. Of course there was the jumping frog and some bits from Clemmons time on the Mississippi - all well done.

The evening program paired Bill Harley, nationally known, grammy winning, storyteller- musician with “emerging artist”, storyteller Ellouise Schoettler. ( at left - Ellouise and Bill)

I told three personal stories, two of family life and the third the story of my recent encounter with a Harley-riding "tattooed-man". I felt very connected to the audience and they listened a good performance from me. Then they told me know they liked the stories. That felt good.

Bill Harley is a main attraction because he does not disappoint his audiences. Stories, music, his warmth and humor - what more could you ask. "Barbie's Head is Missing" was a real crowd pleaser as well as his adventure -" walking to the mall". I was very touched by his story of returning to a childhood neighborhood where everything was changed and he felt totally strange.

Saturday morning I sat in on David Joe Miller's "business" workshop - - rich with tips- which he has self-tested. I admire how he has re-framed his experience in the car business to serve his storytelling career. The material was on target (with valuable hand-outs) and he was an enthusiastic and generous presenter. He closed with a story and I really appreciated his "pure" southern storytelling.

Jim and I did some sightseeing in the early afternoon, checking out the old Moravian Village, the Banana Factory Arts Center, (even stopped to watch some of the glass blowing) and stopped in to the Moravian Book Store - glad it was near closing because I would have been overcome. One disappointment - near-by thrift shops were closed.

Made it to Bill Harley's afternoon program for kids at the Bethlehem Library. He played his guitar and sang, involved the kids in simple lyrics, told stories they loved - especially the one about Pirate Annie who plunders "underwear". There was lots of laughing as parents and kids really enjoyed themselves.

The Saturday evening program was "Girls Night Out" on the Lehigh University campus. In “Two Cronies” Cora Hooks and Mary Wright tackled material about women turning 50. It all rang true emotionally. The program was funny, poignant, and well done.

Before Judith Black's performance there was a Wild Women Reception in the lobby.While people were munching chocolate Storyteller Kathy Pierce rose up and prompted the group to tell stories about wild women from their lives. At first the women were hesitant but Kathy kept cheer leading til stories started to come forth - and once the spigots were open there was no stopping the flow. A warm and moving personal sharing.

Judith Black performed her long and complex piece about menopause - really funny as well as poignant. She included three different versions of Snow White (African, Italian and Celtic) from the mother's point of view. Whoa! I enjoyed it; I admired it; and I was glad to experience it.

There were Fringe performances Saturday afternoon which I heard were quite good. I missed Sunday’s Sacred Stories and a program tailored for April Fool’s day because I had another commitment in Maryland.

It was a full STORY week-end. Some of my most compelling memories are of the Lehigh Valley storytellers -- warm, friendly, supportive and welcoming. I was talking with a participant, a newbie teller, Sunday morning and she told me how glad she was to have attended this week-end. " I found a real community of storytellers." All of them worked hard to pull this off and it seemed seamless. That's an illusion that takes some doing. Bravo.

I am so glad to have been a part of this wonderful event. .


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