Storytellers Enchant San Miguel Audiences
By CheriRae Wright, photos by Barry Weiss
As the Director of the San Miguel International Storytelling Festival, and on behalf of the festival committee I want to thank the residents of San Miguel de Allende for helping to make our first-ever festival not just a reality but a huge success. You embraced our vision for a storytelling festival with open arms and generous hearts and we thank you for it.
Early last summer, Stephanie Medlock of Indigan Storyteller, a storytelling group near Chicago, met Susan Page, Executive Director of the San Miguel Writers’ Conference and Literary Festival and proposed working together to bring a storytelling festival to San Miguel. Six volunteers organized and planned a festival that included auditions in mid-September followed a month later by a workshop, a student performance, two days of storytelling competition, and an evening gala featuring Derek Burrows and Mike Bonifer, two internationally acclaimed storytellers.
“The effective coordination and organization of our San Miguel colleagues ensured a successful storytelling festival. Thanks for allowing Indigan Storyteller to be a part of this superb event,” said Roger Batton, Festival Master of Ceremonies and president of Indigan Storyteller.
I believe everyone who participated in the festival came away a winner, from the performers who shared their stories to the captivated audiences who listened in awe. However, storytellers who stood out were given special recognition by both a panel of judges and the audience.
Our five judges rated storytellers on both content and execution. The final results were as tight as they could get with only two-tenths of a percentage point separating the top five storytellers. Drae Campbell from Brooklyn, New York, was our Grand Prize winner. Our Runner-Up award was split between two local storytellers, Carol Merchasin and Nathan Feurerberg.
The audience was allowed to vote as well. On Friday, the audience chose Drae Campbell (Most Humorous), Emmett Miller (Most Dramatic), and Carol Merchasin (Favorite). Saturday’s audience winners were Mike Shafran (Most Humorous), Kirsten Dehner (Most Dramatic), and Rick Roberts (Favorite).
“I have never worked with a group of such talented people. What gave our audiences such pleasure, I truly believe, was the sheer variety of experience and honesty displayed in the stories,” summarized Stephanie.
If you missed the competition, don’t worry. Audio recordings of the stories are available for purchase as MP3 files. In addition, photographs by Barry Weiss may be purchased. Contact SMAStorytellers@gmail.com if you’re interested.
We’re already outlining our next festival, and we’re especially excited about our options. We are planning to include events featuring Spanish-speaking storytellers next year. We’ll let you know about other festival changes in the months ahead, so stay tuned.
I’m also pleased to announce that as a result of the festival’s success, we have started San Miguel Storytellers, a new group in town dedicated to promoting and celebrating the craft of storytelling. If you would like to learn more about our group please email us at SMAStorytellers@gmail.com. Que siempre honremos nuestras historias — May we always honor our stories.