Heavy Weight National Storytellers to Compete in San Miguel
By Frank J. Gaydos
Be prepared for the storytelling ride of your life. Three nationally recognized storytellers from the US will converge on San Miguel to compete with local storytellers in the first ever San Miguel Storytelling Festival. It’s a “gloves off” competition and may the best storytellers win!
Fri, Oct 17, 10:30am-3pm
Sat, Oct 18, 10:30am-3pm
250 pesos each day
Storyteller Showcase and Awards Ceremony
Sat, Oct 18, 7:30pm
All at Teatro Santa Ana
I recently interviewed three contenders by email, Twanna Hines, well known sex educator and columnist in Washington D.C., Paul Pasulka, private clinical psychologist and on the faculty of Northwestern University Medical School and Drae Campbell, standup comedienne and host of Tell, a Queer storytelling night at BGSQD, a bookstore in Manhattan, NY. What a line up!
Frank Gaydos: What did you do before becoming a storyteller?
Twanna Hines: I was raised in rural Mississippi, left home at a young age and travelled in Europe. I finally settled down in Holland to become a Dutch citizen. Returned to the US and lived in New York for eight years. I wrote for Newsweek, Inc. magazine and BBC Worldwide and have been teaching sex education for the past five years.
Paul Pasulka: I began working as hospital technician and child care worker while an undergraduate student in psychiatry. I worked nights as a bartender and in a funeral home prior to my graduate studies and post-doctoral fellowship at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
Drae Campbell: I have been a performer all my life. I found the genre of storytelling fits my style of comedy. It leaves space to be whoever I am on stage. I noticed early on in my career that audiences laughed more when I talked about the events of my life, rather than telling conventional jokes.
FG: Why did you become a storyteller?
TH: I’ve been writing and telling stories since I was a little girl. I guess I’m a natural born storyteller. I had my first story published in my hometown newspaper when I was 15. From then on, it was books, magazines, TV, radio and now my debut play that was favorably reviewed by the Washington Post.
PP: As a child I remember being fascinated by pictures in Aesop’s Fables. When I was 12, my older brother turned me on to stories such as the Ox Bow Incident, The Pearl and The Old Man and the Sea. I “hit the page” running. Many years later, bored on jury duty, I started sketching ideas for Sarah’s Story, a children’s novel about a child whose imagination and courage are sparked by, guess what? A storyteller.
DC: I told stories at various events and several friends encouraged me to “tell the story of my life” or write a book. So I started telling my story while performing on stage. Eventually I tried hosting a ‘queer’ storytelling night at a local bookstore, which caught on and became very popular.
FG: What kind of stories do you like to tell and what makes a good story?
TH: I like to tell stories about sexuality and how to have hotter relationships. Painful honesty, being vulnerable and letting your soul feel like it’s completely naked.
PP: I prefer autobiographical stories and stories about my family and people that influenced my life. I try to make other characters the primary focus of my story.
DC: I relate to stories about kindness and those that have an element of surprise or stories in which I’m an idiot and I learn something. The best stories are the ones that have a fantastical element and you get a good sense of the person telling it.
FG: Is storytelling a skill and what advice would you give aspiring storytellers?
TH: Like kissing, storytelling is a skill. Your audience tells you how good you are. My advice, be yourself. Sounds simple, but honesty is one of the most difficult things in the world.
PP: Good storytelling is an acquired skill. Many people structure their stories according to time- tested methods. I look at stories as a lump of clay that I form, shape, reform and refine. Along that line, I would advise aspiring storytellers to write a draft, don’t worry about the time, read it and beat it mercilessly to get it down to five minutes. You want to grab your audience’s attention; use dramatic dialogue or gripping images. Once you got ‘em hooked, don’t let go!
DC: Yes, I think it’s a skill, and the best way to start is to ask yourself conceptual questions: When was I the most scared? When was the happiest day of my life? Have I ever been psychic? What recurring dreams have I had? Then contextualize, it’s the story that’s important. And, oh yeah, practice in front of a mirror.
If you want to enjoy Twanna, Paul and Drae in the “battle of the Storytellers,” get your tickets for the two-day event, October 17 and 18, before they sell out. Tickets go on sale October 1 at the Biblioteca. And, don’t forget to root for our local San Miguel aspiring storytellers. Who knows, maybe we have a national contender waiting to be discovered!