The Cleveland Storytelling Guild has announced a new fundraising event, “The Blue Tarp Special,” to benefit recovery efforts for local tornado victims.
The Sept. 8 event, named in reference to all the blue tarps on damaged roofs of Bradley County houses, will be held during the Thursday Farmers Market in the new First Street park at 5 p.m. There will be traditional and bluegrass music, along with opportunities for anyone interested in telling their personal “tornado story” to those in attendance.
Judy Baker, the current guild president, and Maurine Olin, president elect, said the Cleveland Storytelling Guild has consistently focused on the goal of bringing stories to the public. Both ladies agree there is a misconception associated with the art of storytelling.
“So many times people think we read to children,” Baker said. “No. That is not what we do. We tell stories — real stories. A lot of adults like to go to storytelling events also.”
Olin, a storyteller who trained in the theater of performing arts, said when she first started telling stories “the love of it was in interacting with people.
“In theater you never look at the audience,” she said. “All of a sudden here I am doing storytelling and I can see the reactions on their faces — what fun is that! It’s just marvelous! Besides, you don’t have to memorize a script.”
Baker, who also did theater and took classes in speech, added, “I do a lot of personal stories. I also love the old Appalachian traditional stories. The worst I’ve ever done is a story I pushed before it was ready. You have to live with the characters for a little while.”
Olin and Baker, veterans of storytelling, said they are never at a loss for entertainment in the storytelling guild and welcome new members who can learn the art of public speaking.
“The Cleveland Story Telling Guild was founded by Millie Sieber and Nancy Brewer,” Olin said. “It was their wish to have a guild that would both encourage the telling of stories and the tellers’ improvement of their craft.
“Our guild has consistently focused on the goal of bringing stories to the public — to both adults and children,” Baker said. “Many of our tellers go into our schools, both to entertain and conduct workshops that give children and youths the opportunity to be storytellers.”
“We welcome anyone interested in telling or listening (to stories) to come to our meetings on the second Tuesday of each month in the new meeting room at our public library on Church Street. We meet at 7 p.m. with telling during the first part, and business toward the end.”
According to the guild, anyone who is an aspiring storyteller and decides to become a member will enjoy the benefit of professional, constructive coaching.
“You have the opportunity to tell your stories to an audience of people who have, each and every one, been a beginning teller at some point,” Olin said. “Some of us have gotten beyond that point — some haven’t. It doesn’t matter. If you have no desire to get up in front of an audience and tell, you still get to listen.
A portion of each regular monthly meeting is devoted to telling and listening.”
The Cleveland Storytelling Guild also started a new program called “Stories on Sunday,” a one hour program at the Cleveland Bradley County Public Library, featuring storytellers who have worked with acclaimed humorist, storyteller, singer and songwriter Kim Weitkamp.
The next program is set for Sept. 18 and will feature Deborah Holland, Steve Daugherty and Sylvia Idom.
Both Baker and Olin agree the chemistry between storyteller and a live audience creates a bond unlike anything people can experience on the Internet or by simply watching a movie.
“When you watch a movie, a TV show or a video game, you are seeing what the director wants you to see,” Baker said. “The actor is how he wanted him to look, he’s saying what he wanted him to say and the situations are what the writer wanted them to be in.
“But when you hear a story told to you, you make up what the characters look like. You decide what color hair you want them to have. You make everything look the way you wanted. When it’s important to the story, we will add details. But if it’s not, we let the listener add their own details.”
According to Olin, audience reaction plays a major role in storytelling and even the information the storyteller ends up sharing.
“You can have a story that people love to hear — and as you tell it over the years — it will change,” she said. “It also changes according to your audience. I may be telling something I’ve been telling for years — and I’m getting this really neat feeling from the audience — I’ll throw in something I’ve never thrown in before right there on the spot — and it works!”
Olin said each storyteller has their “own way” and it’s important for new storytellers to find their own style and keep the art of storytelling growing and improving.
Money donations for the Blue Tarp Special fundraiser will go through the United Way of Bradley County to help relief efforts for local victims of the April 27 tornadoes.
For further information, call Maurine Olin at 479-2476 or 618-5482.