By Barbara Sherf
If you like to hear or tell a good tale around the kitchen table, then you will want to come to this year’s Tellabration storytelling celebration on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2 p.m., at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church with the theme being “Transformation — Stories of Magic, Change and Renewal.”
It’s one thing to tell a good yarn in company, but it’s quite another to stand up in front of a group of strangers and audition for an annual storytelling event sponsored by the National Storytelling Network.
But that’s what 10 Philadelphia area storytellers, including myself, did this summer and will soon be performing as part of the local portion of a national Tellabration storytelling event held on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. According to www.tellabration.org, storytelling enthusiasts from all around the globe will share their storytelling talents in countless events to celebrate the art of storytelling.
Chestnut Hill resident Dennis Strain, 69, immediate past president of the Patchwork Storytelling Guild (www.patchworkstorytelling.org) that serves the Greater Philadelphia region, is overseeing the Telllabration celebration in Philadelphia. Strain has been a storyteller for more than 15 years. His storytelling journey began in Harrisburg and has moved with him to Philadelphia, where he enjoys his recent retirement. He works with Irish myths and legends, et al.
“We have given a lot of thought to the theme of transformation this year and felt that stories do transform and sustain us,” said Strain. “The majority of our tellers are professionals who are donating their time in an effort to continue the art and craft of oral storytelling. In an age when people often feel disconnected, this is a great way to connect with others and let your imagination take you to another dimension.”
Germantown resident Ray Tackett will be sharing a story and also serving as master of ceremonies. Tackett is a retired computer engineer with a passion for flying. His aviation experiences led to the founding of his “Piston Engine Story Factory.” Inspired by the writing style of Ernest K. Gann, Ray has crafted a repertoire of stories that are mostly about flying and are mostly true.
“A lot of the stories have to do with freedom,” he said. “There are several that deal with slavery and one with racism. One of our newer members will be telling a tale about a baby boy who died and showed up at his parents’ death beds decades later. There are some fables and lighter stories as well.”
Mt. Airy resident Jackie Jonas is a professional storyteller, teacher and actress. She began her storytelling career in 1983 as a member of the Tennessee Griot Society. Since then she has performed in libraries, churches, synagogues, on stage and at private functions. Her repertoire includes original material as well as traditional tales from Africa, Europe, Asia and the U.S. Her story deals with slavery. “Stories are what define us and offer us an opportunity to connect with one another,” said Jonas. “In a time when there is so much technology and disconnection, it’s fulfilling to be able to take the time to continue the art and craft of oral storytelling.”
Area storytellers participating in Tellabration will be Patchwork Storytellers president Denise McCormack, of Bordentown; Ray Tackett, Vernyce Dannells, of Overbook; Ron Carter, Barbara Cohen-Kligerman, of Merion Station; Dennis Strain and Mt. Airy’s Jackie Jonas and Lynn Mather.
“We all love stories,” said Mather. “They entertain and instruct us. We both hide and reveal ourselves in them. The sounding and shaping of a story presented live brings us close, weaves a spell. On the edge of our seats, awaiting the next line, what is more fun than stories?”
According to Denise McCormack, “Storytelling is the ultimate tell-tale human marker. It is our innate means of communication with an appeal to all ages and interests. Through stories we are apt to give and gain understanding of important issues that we are committed to act upon … ”
The Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields is at 8000 St. Martins Lane. The stories are appropriate for those 15 and older. More information at www.patchworkstorytelling.org. Speaker, publicist and author Barbara Sherf, of Flourtown, is a former print and broadcast journalist who tells client stories through CommunicationsPro.com. Her other passion is capturing memories of elders through a sister company, Capture Life Stories. She will be telling the story, previously published here, of “An Unexpected Angel.”