Alton Chung will chat it up at the 19th Annual Talk Story Festival.
Tell me a story.
Every year, organizer Jeff Gere puts on one of the country's best storytelling festivals in Ala Moana Park. With his Talk Story Festival approaching its 20th anniversary next year, his tireless efforts have not gone unrewarded. In July, he received the National Storytelling Network's Oracle award for service to oral folk art.
19th Annual Talk Story Festival
Place: McCoy Pavilion Auditorium, Ala Moana Park
Time: See schedule
Call: 768-3032 or visit honoluluparks.com
6 to 9 p.m. Friday: "SpOoOoky Stories" with Ed Chevy, Alton Chung, "Tita" Kathy Collins, Lyn Ford, Lopaka Kapanui, Daniel Kelin II, James McCarthy & Leslie Kline, Sandra MacLees and Dann Seki
6 to 9 p.m. Saturday: "Say Something New" with Collins, Kelin, MacLees, Seki, and Sean Buvala, See Elauri and Jason Tom, Brenda Freitas-Obregon, and Makia Malo
1 to 4 p.m. Sunday: Storytelling workshop with Buvala, Chung and Ford
5:30 to 8 p.m. Sunday: "Tales 'n Tunes" with Buvala, Chung, Ford, Kapanui, McCarthy & Kline, Nyla Ching-Fujii and Joel Spiral
This weekend's festival comprises three days of tales both old and new, some with music, and some guaranteed to give you chicken skin.
A couple of festival returnees include Hawaii-born Alton Chung (now based in Portland, Ore.) and Midwesterner Lyn Ford, both attendees of the National Storytelling Festival held last weekend in Jonesborough, Tenn.
Chung is hoping that nothing like last year's earthquake, which canceled the final day of the 2006 festival, will prevent him from telling an original piece based on the experiences of the U.S. Army's 100th and 442nd Japanese-American battalions.
He did tell "Heroes" in the little building near 'Iolani School what surviving members of the 100th call their club. "I did it with a koto player, and families, kids and grandkids, were there." It made for a moving experience, and the story will finally make its overdue public debut Sunday, again accompanied by koto.
"It's such a specialized piece that there are very few places I can tell this. And since last October when I first told it at the club, I've done more research," Chung said.
Chung returned to Honolulu last December to record "Heroes" at Hawaii Public Radio. An expanded version of this one-man show, which includes stories of Japanese-American soldiers on the mainland, was videotaped a couple of months ago in his home city's cable-access studio.
"It was a three-camera shoot with me in front of a green screen. ... It's like digital storytelling with archive photographs from the veterans here," he said. "It's since turned into a DVD, which I just got from the manufacturers two days ago. So I'll be bringing copies of that to the festival to sell."
Lyn Ford will also appear at the 19th Annual Talk Story Festival.
AFTER TALK STORY is pau, Chung and Lyn Ford will tour Maui and the Big Island.
Ford, a fourth-generation storyteller from Columbus, Ohio, offers folk-tale adaptations suitable for all ages, and she believes she's made a name for herself with her ghost stories, mostly based on Appalachian tales and what are called "Jack tales" from Scotland and Wales (like "Jack and the Beanstalk" and "Jack the Giant Killer").
But she also draws upon her mixed ethnic background of black and American Indian (specifically Cherokee and Choctaw) and a long family tradition.
"These are my versions of stories I heard mostly from my father and grandfather," she said from her mainland home earlier this week. "Some are trickster tales, some scary stories, and I usually include some audience participation, like call and response. I'll also be bringing a small drum that was originally made in Nigeria."
Ford's growing interest in telling her own stories came mainly came from her father and grandfather, who told tales rooted in black folk stories.
"My father was the one that told a lot of the trickster tales that usually involve a rabbit, and my grandfather told tall tales that he claimed were true," she said. They "used a lot of facial expressions and voices that made you willing to invest in the story whether it was true or not. And when I got older and started questioning my grandfather about the truth of his tales, he just said that even if they weren't true, they should be.
"My mother told me that I told my first tall tale when I was 3. I broke a lamp and claimed the cat did it. The only problem was that we didn't have a cat."
As a grown-up, Ford overcame a stutter to become such a good storyteller that her children started her on what would be her life's work.
"Before, I was a preschool teacher and tutor in language arts. My children volunteered me to tell a story for a school assembly, and since then, I've been doing this for eight years now. Starting off with locally regional work in the Midwest, then visiting West Virginia and Kentucky, it seems that with every successive year, I'm going to more places, and that makes me feel pretty good. So far, I've gone to 20 states, and I'll be going to New York for the first time next year."
Drawing upon her own life experience, Ford said, "I encourage parents to tell stories of their own lives to their children, and share their personal histories with them."
So tell me a story ...