Storytelling icons come to Nevada County
Every summer, for the last 32-years, the Sierra Storytelling Festival has gathered people together from near and far, among the towering pines and sloping lawns of the historic North Columbia Schoolhouse, to hear the nation’s top tellers share the great range of human experience through artfully told stories.
The Sierra Storytelling Festival is pleased to welcome award-winning international storytellers Muriel Johnson, Kevin Kling, Judith Black, Andy Offutt Irwin, Diane Ferlatte, Johnny Moses, Tim Ereneta, and Shelly Covert, from July 21 to 23, for three days of tall tales and true stories for all ages.
“We are blessed as a community to have an event like the Sierra Storytelling Festival in our area,” says Molly Jochem, Executive Director of the North Columbia Schoolhouse Cultural Center. “The Storytelling committee works hard to create a line-up of diverse world-class tellers whose styles flow organically and keep the audience engaged.”
This weekend’s lineup features an array of tellers including one who has performed for a president, a popular NPR commentator, a Grammy-nominated artist, a local favorite and more.
Judith Black is one of the nation’s foremost storytellers, creating and telling compelling, humorous, and riveting stories. New perspectives on our national history, tickling familial dysfunction, aging, and human quirks, are all fodder for Black’s tales. She has performed on stages from the Montreal Comedy Festival to The Smithsonian Institution, to the Art Museum of Cape Town, and has appeared fifteen times at the National Storytelling Festival. And if that wasn’t impressive enough, she is the winner of the Oracle Award, storytelling’s most coveted laurel.
Grammy-nominated and internationally renowned storyteller, Diane Ferlatte, fondly remembers her childhood years of sitting on the porch of her grandparents’ home in New Orleans, captivated by the oral stories of family generations past, their spirit, their journeys, and their heartfelt fantasy coming more alive in each moment. She views storytelling as a traditional art form that can promote literacy, imagination, and values in the young. While emphasizing African American stories, she loves to tell stories that hold truths touching upon our common humanity, including personal and historical stories. Ferlatte frequently incorporates music and song into her performances. Erik Pearson, her musical sidekick, often accompanies Diane on banjo & guitar.
As a storyteller and early childhood educator Muriel Johnson has shared traditional folk tales and personal stories with thousands of children and adults across the United States, performing at schools, museums, libraries and festivals. Johnson’s warm gentle presence connects immediately with the audience as she transforms herself into different characters.
Kevin Kling, best known for his popular commentaries on National Public Radio’s, “All Things Considered” and his storytelling stage shows like Tales from the Charred Underbelly of the Yule Log, delivers hilarious, often tender stories. Kling’s autobiographical tales are as enchanting as they are true to life: hopping freight trains, getting hit by lightning, performing his banned play in Czechoslovakia, growing up in Minnesota, and eating things before knowing what they are. His book, Come and Get It, was chosen as the 2012 Minnesota Center for Books Arts “Winter Book.”
Johnny Moses is a Tulalip Native American raised in the remote Nuu-chah-nulth village of Ohiat on the west coast of Vancouver Island, B.C., Canada. He was raised in the traditional ways by his grandparents, and sent by his elders to share their teachings with all people. Moses is a master storyteller, oral historian, traditional healer and respected spiritual leader. In his tradition there were no formal schools; wisdom and knowledge about all areas of life were handed down in stories. Moses shares each story in English, traditional sign language, and one of the eight native languages that he speaks fluently.
With a silly putty voice, hilarious heart-filled stories, and amazing mouth noises (arguably, the greatest whistler in the world) one-person-showman, Andy Offutt Irwin, is equal parts mischievous schoolboy and the Marx Brothers, peppered with a touch of the Southern balladeer. One of the most sought after performing storytellers in the United States, Irwin is especially known for relating the adventures of his eighty-five-year-old-widowed-newly-minted-physician-aunt, Marguerite Van Camp, a woman who avoids curmudgeonship by keeping her finger on the pulse of the changing world around her as she seeks to grow — even at her advanced age — in the New South.
Bay Area storyteller and fringe performer Tim Ereneta returns as the festival’s special guest at the Friday night’s Opening Concert. Ereneta is an award-winning storyteller based in Berkeley, California, who has performed on stages in schools, theaters, and festivals across the country. Trained as a playwright and actor, Ereneta brings more than 25 years of stage experience to his performances.
The local tellers showcase features Shelly Covert, a member of the Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan Tribe and Executive Director of the California Heritage: Indigenous Research Project.
In addition to performances by these tellers, the Sierra Storytelling Festival features several special events including a Storytelling Workshop with Judith Black on Friday afternoon, the hugely popular Story Slam on Saturday afternoon which is open to the public, a Children’s Concert performed by Andy Offutt Erwin Sunday morning, and an Open Telling also on Sunday morning for up-and-coming storytellers. The Festival also hosts Friday and Saturday Gala Evening Concerts with all featured tellers.
“The tellers love performing at the Schoolhouse,” says Jochem. “From the beautiful grounds and historic building to the local food vendors and story slam, the Sierra Storytelling Festival is unlike any other festival.”
Gather your friends and family, pack a picnic and blanket and settle into a weekend where time stands still, magic and wonder fill the air, and the art of story is alive and well.
This year’s festival features local and organic food and drink, beer and wine, for purchase. Attendees should bring a pillow or blanket for provided bench seating or their own low-backed folding chairs, flashlight, and layered clothing as the days are warm and the nights are cool. Pets (except for properly certified dogs) are prohibited.
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