By LINDA CHION KENNEY
Treasured stories take center stage this summer with the 40th annual Tampa-Hillsborough County Storytelling Festival, open to students in kindergarten through grade 12.
No previous experience is necessary and no cost is involved to participate in the 2021 Storytelling Festival, which celebrates its “ruby anniversary” this year after the festival was cancelled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. This year’s event is set to feature live, virtual events due to pandemic considerations.
To be included in this year’s festival, stories no longer than 10 minutes are eligible for submission before July 17. Videos deemed “festival quality” will be accepted and library officials offer a slew of resources to help storytellers at all levels, from newbie to advanced, develop and hone their storytelling skills.
The festival runs now through Aug. 5 and includes online learning sessions and events that address techniques and performances presented by seasoned storytellers themselves.
Upcoming events include Animal Safari Stories with Katie Adams (recommended for ages 3-8, June 29); The Magic of Storytelling Youth Theatre Workshop, taught by Creative Arts Theatre Company (ages 4-8, June 30); Storytelling with Windell Campbell (all ages, July 6); and Tampa-Hillsborough County Storytelling Festival: Next Steps (July 9). The festival’s closing ceremony, including recognition for participant contributions and special performances, is set for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 5.
Attending sessions and watching instructional videos does not guarantee an entry will qualify as “festival quality.” The aim is to build literacy skills and confidence through these measures, and that with lots of practice, a performance will meet the storytelling criteria for “festival quality.”
The criteria includes choice of story, which must be from a published story and can include such things as folk and fairy tales, short stories and long narrative poems. Original stories are not eligible for competition but are eligible for the “swapping corner,” a festival feature open to anyone who wishes to tell a story. Unscheduled performances are on a first-come, first-served basis.
Additional criteria used for storytelling evaluation include memory (the story should not be memorized word-for-word, unless it is a poem), projection (no electronic amplification allowed), diction (enunciation and effective use of voice), personality (the flavor of the story should be brought out by the storyteller’s presentation), poise (the storyteller should be relaxed) and time (the story must last less than 10 minutes).
Since storytelling is an oral, narrative art form, festival organizers say no props or costumes are allowed and no puppets or “theatrical dramas.”
To illustrate the types of “treasured tales” ideal for festival submission, library officials generated a list that includes “Abiyoyo” by Pete Seeger, based on a South African lullaby and folk song; “Mrs. Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile,” by Won-Ldy Paye; “The Gifts of Wali Dad,” a tale of India and Pakistan, by Aaron Shepard; “Too Many Fairies,” a Celtic tale, by Margaret Read MacDonald; and “Sylvester and Magic Pebble,” by William Steig.
In “Once Upon a Story: A Manual for Storytelling,” written by the Tampa-Hillsborough County Storytelling Festival Committee, students are invited to explore the “simple art” of storytelling, which “speaks to the human heart, breaks through psychological barriers, establishes multi-cultural understandings and enriches the teller as well as the listener.”
“Before computers, slide projectors, blackboards, books and paper, there was storytelling, the world’s first teaching tool,” the manual notes. “Before faxes, telephones, telegraphs and the written word, there was storytelling, the world’s best communicator.”
For more on the 2021 Storytelling Festival, including information on how to record and submit a story, criteria details, event registrations and the manual, visit: www.HCPLC.org/.