On Saturday, February 2, 2008 I went to hear “What Folks Told Me, and What They Didn’t,” a storytelling program for adults. It featured visiting professional storyteller Lyn Ford. It was produced by Storytelling Arts of Indiana at the Indiana History Center and presented (sponsored) by Lewis & Kappes as part of the Storytelling Series presented (sponsored) by Beth Millett.
I had taken workshops with Ford and heard her tell before, so I knew I was in for a treat. Her storytelling style is deceptively simple: it is uniquely gentle and warm, full of a child’s sense of play and wonder, yet it is also well grounded, expertly paced, and respectful of the kid inside each of us. I always feel safe being in her audience.
The stories in this particular collection were folk tales and personal stories that she had either heard from her “Pop-Pop” or developed herself out of things that had happened to her, all while she was growing up in the tightly-knit community of Florence Street in Sharon, Pennsylvania.
I laughed when she told us about getting her first “foundations,” and how all of her aunts and cousins spoke the word in a whisper. I laughed when she shared her first (and last) taste of her uncle’s “special water” – the moonshine that he had “caught” when he “went fishing.” I laughed several other times as well.
But the stories I loved best were the ones that quietly showed how much Ford values her own complex ethnic background and the complex array of cultures that make up our world. I was raised to believe that diversity offers strength. Ford’s stories celebrate this, too, and without being the least bit preachy about it.
I also loved when her stories incorporated singing. To supplement a story-poem about the folk wisdom associated with brooms, Ford sang “Wade in the Water” while rhythmically slapping two small, round hand-brooms on her thighs. In another story, in which Ford and some of her classmates had left school to protest the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., she (and we) heard a Jewish neighbor singing a Hebrew song from a second-story window in support of the marching students. A little later in the story, she told us that the song is sometimes translated as “Oh, how wonderful it is when men and women can meet together in peace.”
I admired Ford for having “processed” all of her personal stories thoroughly on her own or with friends before telling them from a stage. The audience was free to feel whatever we were feeling because the storyteller was offering us well-crafted and seasoned stories, not trying to get us to be her therapists.During the intermission, a local teller, Portia Sholar Jackson, asked Ford if she would tell a story that she had told at the most recent festival/conference of the National Association of Black Storytellers. It was a story Ford had told as part of the “Sacred Stories” segment of that gathering.It was a funny and touching story about the day she had eaten “Jesus’ dinner” by mistake, and the compassion of the minister who found her under his desk in tears because she was sure she was now going to hell. I was glad that Ford was willing to tell this story to us, even though it wasn’t part of what she had planned to tell here in Indianapolis.
Lyn Ford’s “What Folks Told Me, and What They Didn’t” storytelling program was indeed a treat.The next visiting professional teller in Storytelling Arts of Indiana’s Storytelling Series for adults will be Heather Forest doing “Travel Scenes” on March 1, 2008 at the Indiana History Center at 8:00 pm. She comes to us from New York State and her style is musical and beautiful, almost like a balladeer’s. I like it very much.But even before that, on February 16, 2008, same time and place and also for adults, as part of a special fundraising event Bil Lepp will present “Punching the Lard: True Stories and Tall Tales.” There is only one “l” in his first name. Lepp is handsome and hilarious. He comes to us from West Virginia and oh, man, can he LIE. I like his style very much, too.
For more information about either of these events, please call 317-576-9848 or visit the Storytelling Arts of Indiana website.
Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com