Debbie Croft: Storytelling Festival returns to Mariposa

March 7, 2013 

— The best storytellers have a gift for amusing and amazing, weaving words with wonder, and transporting our imaginations on incredible journeys within ourselves, around the world and beyond.

Today through Sunday, the Mariposa County Arts Council will hold the 26th annual Storytelling Festival.

This popular event features six talented performers who will delight audiences today and tomorrow at the Mariposa County High School, and on Sunday at Yosemite National Park.

Guest storytellers this year include:

• Patrick Ball, a California native, is a National Storytelling Association Circle of Excellence Award recipient. In younger years he dabbled in music and became enamored with words. Studying history in college led him to visit Ireland, the country of his heritage, and eventually North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains. In discovering the eloquence of oral tradition and the beauty of the Celtic harp, Ball found his calling. He is considered one of the best Celtic harp players in the world, as well as a captivating spoken-word artist.

• Born in the southern Appalachian Mountains on land owned by his family since 1781, Donald Davis grew up hearing and absorbing stories of all kinds. He remembers, "In a story I could safely dream any dream, hope any hope, go anywhere I pleased, fight any foe, win or lose, live or die. My stories created a safe, experimental learning place." This father of four sons and retired Methodist minister now travels the globe telling his stories.

• Home-fried tales are the specialty of Lyn Ford, a nationally recognized, fourth-generation storyteller with African-American and Appalachian roots. She is a published writer and recording artist with award-winning albums. Residing in Ohio, Ford is a story artist with the Columbus Arts Council and a Thurber House mentor for young authors. Of course, those who know her best call her mama, grandmama and a good cook.

• Angela Lloyd, a Californian, combines whimsical stories with music and poetry. A virtuoso on the washboard, she also plays autoharp, guitar, spoons and bells. For three years she was an artist in residence at The Walden School in Pasadena. As one of the most unique performers on the national storytelling circuit, Lloyd is often referred to as a "one-woman band."

• David Novak is a former Master Storyteller for the Disney Institute at Walt Disney World. His travels have taken him from his home in the Appalachian region to Hong Kong and the Czech Republic, and many places in between. With a background in theater, Novak's craft is all about performance, which includes elements of intimacy, conversation and a degree of participation. In storytelling, he believes the actors have an opportunity to develop a meaningful relationship with the audience.

• And lastly, Laura Pershin Raynor is an award-winning children's librarian and storyteller from Michigan. In more than 30 years of telling tales, the main characters most often come from her own family, including her Russian grandmother who immigrated to America and lived to be 105 years old. Her heart-warming stories endear her to the audience, no matter what their ages are. Just ask the 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds who sit attentively during story hour each week in the Ann Arbor District Library.

The festival is recommended for ages 8 and older. At Saturday's Children's Story Concert, adult tickets are only $4, and up to four children may attend for free with a paying adult.

A special back stage party on Friday night will give audience members a chance to meet the artists, but space is limited.

Festival prices vary, ranging from individual performances to the two-day festival pass. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Mariposa County Arts Council at (800) 903-9936 or (209) 966-3155. Detailed information and a festival brochure may be viewed at www.arts-mariposa.org.

Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at composed@tds.net.

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