Last weekend was the Ottawa Storytelling Festival, following a one-year hiatus so that it could be revamped and refocused. Pat Holloway, Festival Co-chair, Caitlyn Paxson, Managing Artistic Director, and all of the festival committee should be proud of what they accomplished.
Thursday night featured Ivan Coyote, a storyteller and writer from the Yukon. She was amazing, and what was even more amazing was the audience. New faces abound, and the old Mayfair Theatre was almost full. And the numbers kept coming out.
The Friday night line-up included a cabaret show, which was a brilliant stroke. What better way to infuse the Festival with energy? And again, the audience was diverse and fun. I told a ghost story, with some singing and dying, and I loved the set-up. (Little “squee” moment here: lots of listeners told me they loved my story, including tellers that I now worship. It's a great honour to have respected, world-renowned tellers tell you they like your style. And so I “squee!!”)
Saturday saw Ben Haggarty's and Sianed Jones' re-imagining of Frankenstein, and the Ottawa Steampunk folk came out in full costume, earning the honour of being called the best dressed audience the British performers had ever seen! They were followed by Tim Tingle, a Choctaw storyteller who can draw both laughter or tears with a single sentence.
Needless to say I loved this year's festival. I wish I could have gone to everything, but the main problem with being in an artistic environment is the ever-present and wild creative energy, and so I ran away to write. The muse wasn't knocking. She was beating down the door. I'm sure my publisher won't complain.
I can't wait to see what's in store for the next iteration of the Ottawa Storytelling Festival. Make sure to keep an eye out for details, and to check it out. In fact, check out any storytelling event in the region. The Ottawa Storytellers are making leaps and bounds into a more creative and current telling, offering a diverse array of stories and styles, while still maintaining its traditional stories and venues, as well. This is an important diversification which allows storytelling itself to evolve into an art form that's accessible, striking and, more importantly, that draws in a wider audience.
Stories don't exist without listeners, and I couldn't be more proud of the Ottawa Storytellers for expanding the reach of its stories, and for ensuring that both the new and traditional tellings have a place on the many stages of our beautiful city.