Guild to showcase art form with two nights of tales

by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Milwuakie residents Concetta Antonelli and Ken Iverson get ready to share their storytelling skills at two upcoming events in Portland.Think storytellers are people sitting on the floor with picture books on their laps, reading to a rapt group of toddlers? Think again.

For those who practice the art of storytelling, it is so much more.

“Storytelling is incredible nourishment for the spirit and entertainment for the mind. It is a shared experience and an intimate art form; a multidimensional experience. It moves you, inspires you and makes you realize what is important in life,” noted Concetta Antonelli.

“It is a wonderful art form, filled with humor and insight,” added Ken Iverson.

Antonelli and Iverson, both Milwaukie residents, will participate in the second annual 2013 Annual Festival of Stories, presented by the Portland Storytellers Guild on June 14 and 15 at the Hipbone Studio on East Burnside in Portland.

Stories for adults

Although storytelling is associated with parents telling tales to their children just before bedtime, the kind of event that Antonelli, Iverson and nine other tellers will participate in will be aimed at adults.

Older children may enjoy the stories, Iverson said, but “some of these will be grim, dark stories with disturbing images; some resolve well, but some don’t.”

The title of the June 14 event is “The Gambit — Stories for Adults,” and Antonelli will present a personal narrative about “when I was going through a difficult time in my life as a young woman, breaking free from my family and finding gifts that I couldn’t in a family context.”

This kind of story can “build a lot of intimacy, as everyone can relate; there is always that common denominator,” she said. She does have a concern with tellers who tell personal stories about events that they have not resolved in their lives.

People should not “use telling as personal therapy,” she added.

Iverson will tell three short tales on June 15, during his event, entitled “Tales from the Dark Side: A Celebration of the Brothers Grimm.”

He has not quite made up his mind as to which stories to tell, but noted that some of the Brothers Grimm stories do contain “horrific images,” and some of the tales are “pretty true to life,” in that they may not get completely resolved.

No ‘fourth wall’

Both Antonelli and Iverson note that audiences should be aware that they are not attending a play.

“In theater, the actor memorizes lines and is faithful to the script and the director’s interpretation; that is not how it works in storytelling. You familiarize yourself with the story, but then you get away from the text and find language of your own to tell the story,” Antonelli said.

In theater there is usually a fourth wall, an invisible barrier that separates the audience from the actors on stage.

“But in storytelling, it is paramount that the tellers connect with the audience. My story may change, depending on the audience’s response. I’ll have the core of the story, but I have the freedom to make a split-second decision,” Iverson said.

Imagination also plays a huge role in storytelling the two noted.

If you see a movie, you are hit with images, but when you hear a story, you may have an image in your head, that may not match the image the storyteller has.

“You get to create the one in your head,” Iverson said.

When people are “bombarded” with visual images, “we lose our imaginal intelligence. My imagination revived in me when I started to go to storytelling events,” Antonelli said.

Storytelling events

Iverson and seven others started the Portland Storytellers Guild 27 years ago, to support each other’s growth, he said. The group is welcoming to others, and from September through May holds free storytelling workshops and potlucks at the Kennedy School on the first Friday of the month, Iverson said.

“People can come and just listen or tell — we do what we can to help,” he added.

Antonelli said she was surprised that the group has been around so long, and yet people still are not aware that the guild exists.

Portland is rich in storytelling activities, Iverson noted, encouraging people to visit to check out upcoming events.

Antonelli, a massage therapist and body-centered counselor, said she can trace her interest in storytelling to the time, years ago, when she attended the Pete Seeger Clearwater Festival on the East Coast.

“I went to the storytelling tent and I was mesmerized,” she said, noting that she has been active with the Portland Storytellers Guild since 2000.

Iverson said he first began telling stories as a teenager 33 years ago, and has even taught storytelling workshops to children in the Boston Public Schools.

Both said that people should attend the June 14 and 15 events in Portland, because they will see a wide variety of telling and styles and talents.

Many people are familiar with personal tales, but traditional tales “really carry a fundamental weight that is very essential. They have archetypal themes that have been relevant throughout history,” Antonelli said.

And, Iverson said, even if the tellers are telling grim stories, “it will be lots of fun.”

“After every storytelling event, people want to stay and talk to the tellers. Storytelling forms community on the spot — something we don’t experience enough,” he added.

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