The art and soul of storytelling

STORY CITY – For the past 11 years, this appropriately-named town in its equally appropriately-named county has hosted one of Iowa’s most important weekends featuring, well, stories.

Specifically, storytelling.

Long before the first scribes put quill to vellum, people were telling stories. History and lore were originally preserved through the spoken word.

Carrying that tradition forward, amateurs and professionals spin their tales to amuse, entertain, educate and honor.

In that spirit, with the full respect a town named Story City can muster, professional storytellers Pippa White and La’Ron Williams will headline its Story! Festival from Sept. 15 to Sept. 17.

White, of Lincoln, Nebraska, anchors her work in pivotal moments of history, blending a novelistic style constructed on a framework of reality. On her return to the Midwest and Nebraska she brought with her a powerful background in theatre and television honed, mostly, on the West Coast.

Thus, she is both actress and storyteller.

She calls her work “a story-theatre presentation of history.”

Flint, Michigan, helped to inform the art Williams brings to the stage. He is considered one of the most well-respected storytellers in the United States.

His work is peppered with the rhythm of music, with an underlying goal: promotion of diversity, fostering community building, and encouraging peaceful conflict resolution.

Asked what inspires him, Williams has said this: “Recognizing the importance of people coming together. We live in an age in which we have so many ways to stay separate. You don’t really have to even leave your house in some ways. These things isolate us. Storytelling is called a ‘living art.’ … The benefits of communicating across differences such as ethnicity help us understand each other’s humanity.”

Not only will both storytellers perform in concert, but they will work with students in the Roland-Story Community School District.

On Sept. 16, White will tell stories of courageous young people who did extraordinary things on a visit to the middle school. One such story is the story of a young Norwegian who fought in the resistance in Oslo during World War II.

Wilson will perform at both the elementary and high schools.

Both performers will be featured at a Dinner and a Story event on Sept. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at Fairview Lodge in Story City. Tickets are $30 and are presale only.

On Sept. 17, White will offer a 9 a.m. workshop, “Improving your Public Speaking.” In the afternoon, she has a solo concert: “Orphan Train.”

Williams will also offer a workshop on Sept. 17. At 11 a.m. he will present “Changing Our Stories Will Change Our World.”

The workshops are free.

Following the workshops, there will be a Story Slam, which welcomes stories and poetry alike. The event is free and open to all ages.

The two storytellers’ combined concert on Sept. 17 is at 7 p.m. at the Story Theater Grand Opera House in downtown Story City. Tickets are $17.50 or two for $30. They are available at the Greater Chamber Connection, the Bertha Bartlett Library, and the Story City Historical Society or at storycity.net.