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This year, the Weber State University Storytelling Festival featured four national storytellers, 43 regional storytellers and 71 children’s storytellers. A Russian Babushka-inspired writer of children’s stories, Patricia Polacco, also participated in this year’s festival.
National storyteller Megan Hicks taught stories on Monday with origami. Her main focus was how to create a story about folding origami. She demonstrated how one of her boxy creations can double as a talking head to get shy children to interact, and she showed how to create origami that somersaults while telling a story about a child learning to do a somersault.
Tuesday’s venues on the Ogden campus utilized the Shepherd Union Fireplace Lounge for the Brown Bag Story Slam.
On Tuesday, the festival featured “Why” stories in the Hetzel-Hollein Room of the Stewart Library. Linda Eaton, a professor in anthropology at WSU, told how the storytelling traditions and myths of human origins, according to the Celts, were bumpily wed to origin tales based in the Catholic faith of the Irish.
Eleanor Olson, from the WSU Education Department, shared her reasons for why storytelling is important, mainly that stories offer moral reasoning without moralizing.
Raji Lauffer, a professor of technical education, presented a view into Hindu cosmology and its view of human beginnings.
“If you were to ask other Hindus,” she said, “you’d get as many answers as those asked.”
WSU physicist Stacy Palen shared her view about the creation “story” of the universe, including the how, why and when of the story’s beginning.
“You are the only one that watches, listens, with the hope that you will understand her (Nature’s) story,” she said, regarding society’s translation of nature into story.
The featured storyteller on Tuesday following these panel speakers was national storyteller David Novak, who told the “Epic of Gilgamesh.”
Novak filled in pieces of the Gilgamesh tale with stories containing similar themes.
On Wednesday, Kevin Cordi helped recreate the story of the Titanic by having audience members act as passengers. Since he said he believes story is a form of play, he made the audience participants commit both before and after participating to the following: “I give myself permission to play.”
The Storytelling Festival is in its 17th year. Longtime facilitator Ann Ellis, from the WSU Education Department, worked with and credited Bill Critchlow for the festival.
Critchlow said the festival started in 1994 when he accidentally ended up at the first Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. He tried to get a woman named Raelene to go out with him. Instead, she invited him to the Timpanogos festival so she could help her friend Karen Ashton. Critchlow’s interest was peaked, since he himself had competed in and won at a storytelling festival at Brigham Young University.
Critchlow and Ellis said Ashton helped advise the beginning of WSU’s festival in 1996.
“That first year, it was just four circus tents along Harrison,” Critchlow said. “It rained, and an irrigation pipe broke, and so we had to put up boards to walk on between the tents. We had 80 kids telling stories.”
As it grew, the venue changed and was brought indoors to the Eccles Convention Center.