Essex NY — Storytelling is a human activity as old as the language itself; it is easy to imagine tales of personal adventure being shared among individuals, and histories and cultural traditions being passed down to younger generations around a fire.
Today, stories can be spun before live audiences at events whose appeal is rapidly growing in the North Country, sponsored by organizations such as the Adirondack Center for Writing and North Country Public Radio (NCPR), which have teamed up to offer the Howl Story Slam, a live, spirited storytelling competition. And earlier this summer, NCPR began the HOWL podcast, hosted by Ethan Shantie, which features podcasts shared on stage during those competitions.
By contrast, Bell Fire Arts Collective, in partnership with Whitcomb’s Arts at the Whallonsburg Grange takes a slightly different approach, removing the competitive element, but encouraging and supporting the development of the skill and improving the craft. The Collective’s “SpeakEazy Storytelling Open Mic” has been running monthly since November 2021 and to date 700 audience members have delighted in more that 200 stories told by their friends and neighbors.
And now, in what is a rare opportunity for North Country lovers of storytelling, Bell Fire Arts, in partnership with the Grange and the Keene Valley Library supported by a grant from the New York Council on the Arts, is bringing legendary Chicago storyteller Scott Whitehair for a series of performances and workshops September 15, 16 and 17 at the Whallonsburg Grange Hall and the Keene Valley Library. Over a three-day period Scott will use his expertise to create a custom set of performances and storytelling opportunities to provide inspiration, modeling and skill building for audiences, storytellers and would-be storytellers.
As a performer, Scott has brought his dynamic blend of vulnerability, humor and insight to venues, festivals and conferences all over the world, and has been seen/heard on NPR, PBS, WGN Radio, FOX-TV, Sirius XM, and The Risk Podcast. He is a two-time Moth Slam winner and has won numerous storytelling competitions over the years. As an instructor, Scott has led hundreds of workshop and class sessions for diverse groups of all ages, from theater camps to corporate seminars. He produces “This Much Is True,” one of the Chicago’s longest running personal narrative series, and he is the creator of Story Lab Chicago. In addition, he has served on the board of directors for the National Storytelling Network.
Bell Fire Arts Collective member Mac MacDevitt worked closely with Scott Whitehair in the five years Mac spent in Chicago. “Scott was a tremendous help to me with developing my own storytelling and I saw him work his magic with audiences and storytellers. I’m thrilled to have Scott come to thrill audiences and support all those interested in this marvelous art form. He’s a legend, and Bell Fire Arts Collective is honored to introduce him to the North Country.”
Reservations are also recommended for the performances and workshops which are open to all. Full details and times can be found at bellfirearts.org/scott-whitehair-events. Workshops are limited in the number of participants and early registration is recommended.
More information about Scott Whitehair, including a sampling of his stories and a short video, may be found at scottwhitehair.com.
Details on Bell Fire Art Collective are at bellfirearts.org.