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Review: 1999 Timpanogos Storytelling Festival
By: K. Sean Buvala

Let’s make a Festival banquet! Gather some of the finest nationally-known tellers and throw in a mix of well-prepared local and regional adult tellers. Add some sprinkles of elementary school children who tell fine stories from various sources and some with their own original tales. Top all of this off with a hospitable and well organized volunteer staff. Finally, serve your festival in picturesque Orem/Provo, Utah with lush trees and awe-inspiring views of mountains and waterfalls.

You’ve just created the Tenth Annual Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, held August 26-28, 1999. Dig in!

Your plate would certainly be full. How about a large-portioned appetizer of workshops by Bill Harley, Milbre Burch, Donald Davis and David Holt. Don’t worry, you can eat up as much as you want. There was so much offered in these workshops- don’t be shy- no one could digest it all.

I had the chance to put a bountiful helping of Donald Davis on my plate. His workshop "You Are What You Tell," took participants through two hours beginning with Donald telling a story about his early days as a Pastor. And he said this was a work in progress? Could have fooled me- it was so good.

He continued to keep our attention and challenge us to know why we tell a story, encouraging us to share with our own audiences our motivation and our whys. I walked away from the workshop with a renewed sense of how stories touch not only our audiences, but can and should be touching us as well. He made an interesting comment about the differences between theater and storytelling, saying that we can be hired as an actor to say and do things that we might not normally say and do, but that being a teller requires that we tell our stories only from our genuine selves.

Had only Donald’s workshop been on my plate, I could have left the Festival satisfied. But as each "helping" of the festival was devoured, more was brought. Thousands of local school children were treated to hour long sessions of tellers speaking specifically for them. The children I observed on Thursday eagerly enjoyed Bill Harley, Ed Stivender and Charolette Blake Alston. The children then added their own ingredients to the celebration by singing along with Charolette, "Woman, O Woman, please listen to me! You’re getting too close to the hole in the sea!"

On Friday and Saturday, the Festival began to bring the public to the feast. And feast they did, some having the taste of last year or the year before or the year before that still deliciously lingering in their souls and hearts. Others came for the first time, blissfully unaware that they were going to have so much offered to them. Wasn’t it amazing to watch someone as unimposing as Kathryn Windham feed and surprise her audience with her simply told, riveting tales of the south and the people who live there?

It was entertaining for me to watch some of the teenagers barely shuffle down the winding road that led to the tents. Obviously having been "urged" to attend with their parents, they would mumble in protest to themselves and others around them, "Do I have to listen to ‘once upon a time’ all afternoon? Why did you make me come here?" How amusing it was to watch them as their plates were filled the high energy of Carmen Deedy relating tales of growing up Cuban in the deep south. Suddenly, these teens were transformed from reluctant diners to engaged guests wanting to know, "Who can we see next, Mom?"

And those little sprinkles were fun, too. Several dozen children from all over the Alpine school district, ranging in age from six to twelve, were featured at the beginning of each set. Audiences were amazed that the sprinkles weren’t just sweet pieces of fluff, but were high energy, quality tellers.

Just when I thought I had eaten my fill of this Festival, several thousand of us were treated to "My Favorite Stories," at the outdoor SCERA Shell. With each teller, we were treated to a unique style and story, timing and tempo, legend and truth. A standing ovation at the end, reflected the audience’s profound emotional connection with the tellers. I was surprised when I looked at my watch and two hours had passed- and believe me- it was the first time in those two hours I had looked at my watch. What a fine dessert after a long day’s listening banquet. Yet, there would be one more similar event Saturday night, too.

And so many side dishes, too. Live music, ranging from Chamber to Bluegrass, could be heard throughout the festival during breaks and pre-shows. A variety of vendors of food and crafts were there for guests’ enjoyment. Jugglers delighted children and adults alike. With plenty of shade and seating, it was easy to be comfortable no matter how long you stayed.

What was missing in the weekend feast was knowing the names of my fellow guests. Having simple name tags where other members of the audience could list their names and home towns would have been delightful.

So, did you miss the Timpanogos Festival this year? Not to worry, you can join in again August 31 through September 2, 2000. Come hungry for stories. You will be sure to be satisfied.
Review of the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival By K. Sean Buvala,
Director Media Production Copyright 1999 Storyteller.Net

Sean Buvala is the co-founder and Director of Media Production for Storyteller.Net. Sean can be reached via email at:

Author Information:
Name: K. Sean Buvala
The contents expressed in any article on are solely the opinion of author.

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