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Bay Area Storytelling Festival in Richmond

on May 23, 2012

By center stage in the auditorium of the Craneway Pavillion in Richmond, 5-year-old Malina Maravilla walked up cautiously to Beth Horner as she was taking her acoustic guitar out of the case to tune it. Horner was getting ready to perform soon.

“Can I touch your guitar?” asked Maravilla.

Horner smiled. “Of course,” she said. “Do you want to help me play a song?”

“Oh yeah!” said Maravilla, sitting down next to Horner and stroking the different guitar strings with her finger, making her own melody.

Her father, Johnny Cummings, watched his daughter play with Horner from the second row of center stage.

“This is the first time we’ve come to a festival like this,” said Cummings. “Malina really likes to hear Native American folktales though, so I decided to bring her out. I didn’t think I would enjoy it, but the performers here are really talented.”

On Sunday, the last day of the 2012 Bay Area Storytelling Festival, parents, children, and storytelling fans gathered to celebrate the event with a variety of performers and ended with the audience watching the solar eclipse that evening. The event was sponsored by the Storytelling Association of California, a nonprofit organization in the Bay Area that promotes story events and concerts.

“This is my first time performing at the Pavillion, but I’m excited,” said Horner. “I believe that music brings many people together, and sharing that harmony with others is what drives me to perform.”

The festival, which began on Thursday, featured many other performers including Tlingit Raven dancer, and Celtic harpist and storyteller Patrick Ball. In addition, there were folktales from across the globe, showcased by storytellers Jill Johnson and Michael Katz.

During Jill Jonson’s performance, the audience was primarily composed of senior citizens who came to enjoy the storytelling.

“Storytelling is for all ages,” said Tim Erenata, a festival committee member. “We encourage adults to come. There’s something here for everyone.”

Ereneta taught a storytelling workshop called “Building Stories from Scratch” to a packed house. He has worked as a main stage member of the BATS Improv theatre company which is based in San Francisco for over 10 years.

Performer Wayne Harris told a captivated audience of parents and children alike the folktale of John Henry, a steel driver who constructed railroads all across the United States. Harris kept the crowd engaged with call and response sing-a-longs, asking the audience questions, and taking on different personas in his one man show.

Vendors sold everything from children’s stories on tape cassettes to African and Southeast Asian style clothing. There were many jeweled necklaces and bracelets on display that attracted the attention of some of the younger girls in attendance. Hand-made quilts featuring images of dragons, medieval castles, and princesses from artist Alexandra Von Burg adorned the walls of the pavillion.

In addition to the storyteller’s concerts, the event offered children’s programs, storytelling workshops, and open mic sessions where children got the chance to perform poems and stories they had created.

“It is really exciting to see everything come together,” said Genie Barry, one of the event coordinators. “I think it’s important to hold on to the traditions of storytelling for future generations because these stories are part of our history.”

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