Literary arts

Storytelling in a digital world

The 18th annual Taos Storytelling Festival proves influence and endurance

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Cisco Guevara is the owner and founder of Los Rios River Runners. He tells stories to his clients while floating on the Río Grande – and, luckily for the whole of Taos, he tells his stories onstage. This is Guevara’s 17th year participating in the Taos Storytelling Festival.

When Tempo asked about his long-running involvement, Guevara said, “The whole energy and effort of storytelling is really unique in this modern digital age. It’s very rewarding for both the teller and the listener. Because so much of our life is ‘digital screen online,’ the spoken word has a whole new power to it.”

Audiences can get a taste of this power at the 18th annual Taos Storytelling Festival Friday and Saturday (Oct. 13-14).

The main storytelling concert is on Saturday, 7 p.m., at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 on the day of the show. Please note: This show contains mature content.

This year’s featured storytellers are Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Andy Offutt Irwin and Guevara. James Navé serves as the genial master of ceremonies and the festival’s director.

A press release states that the Taos Storytelling Festival has grown into one of the most exciting, thought-provoking storytelling festivals in America. “It’s exciting because storytelling inspires a spectrum of emotions which will make you laugh, smile, cry, chuckle, wonder, question, listen, and engage.”

Navé was there at the beginning of this legacy. He was one of the original individuals who helped organize and start it. At that time, he was on the SOMOS board of directors. He is now on the board of advisers.

He said, “My idea then was to have the storytelling festival at harvest time. It’s transition time, people are moving into the holiday spirit of the year. People are reflecting on what they’ve done, grouping together around the fireplace.”

Navé – who has extensive experience as a poet, spoken word performer and storyteller – notes that people should come because “we all tell stories. And that shows our community functions in a healthy way.”

Storytelling is a craft of pure entertainment. Tempo has attended Taos Storytelling Festival over the years. Storytelling relies solely on the voice; there is no overdramatizing and no props are used.

Navé explained, “A good storyteller is able to create an atmosphere to allow the audience to think that the story belongs to them. The storyteller is just the delivery mechanism, like a produce truck. It’s the story we go to hear, not the storyteller.”

Storyteller Trommer hails from outside of Telluride, Colorado. Her biography notes that she is Colorado’s Western Slope poet laureate (2015-17) and served two terms as Colorado’s San Miguel County poet laureate (2006-10). Among her awards, publications and accolades, Trommer has been a TEDx speaker. And she has performed twice at the Taos Poetry Festival.

“We’re interested in stories because we love hearing about each other’s experience and we find ourselves in other people’s stories. There’s the common, big conversation: What does it mean to be alive? What are we doing here? I think this is why we go,” said Trommer.

Irwin is a hilarious and sought-after storyteller at festivals nationwide. He is the winner of the Oracle 2013 Circle of Excellence recognition from the National Storytelling Network. Every other year, he participates in the Four Corners Storytelling Festival in Farmington. Hailing form Georgia, Irwin says he has heard of Taos through the storytelling community.

When asked about his upcoming appearance in Taos, Irwin riffed off comedian Mel Brooks and said, “This is what I do for a living: ‘I’m world famous in small towns, one weekend at a time.’”

Irwin will tell a couple of stories through the voice of his 85-year-old Aunt Marguerite, who just graduated from medical school. He said in her voice: “We were tired of the bridge club, so we all went to medical school.”

These talented storytellers reinforce an enduring tradition that has been with humankind since time immemorial.

“When you come away from a storytelling event, you have an increased sense of worth and the community’s worth. You are confident of the history of who you have been, who you are and where you will go,” said Navé.

Visit somostaos.org/storytelling for the full schedule of festival events – including story slams, children and adult workshops, as well as a general “story swap” that is open to the public. Times and admission fees vary.

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