For the ultimate verdict of Timpanogos Storytelling Festival versus FanX, I pondered on what messages they each taught me by attending. Yes, I had to split myself during the weekend of September 5-7, 2019, though it was enough to see clear themes emerging. Obviously, this whole series is subjective and what I hear are not what everyone else would hear.
Message I Heard from Timpanogos Storytelling: Discover the Extraordinary from the Ordinary
When an emcee introduces the professional storytellers onto the stage, we learn some fascinating details or at least feel excited to listen to some stories. With the applause summoning the storytellers, we hear their voices either for the first time or as a beloved voice from past Timpanogos festivals. No matter the garb the storyteller wears, we can picture ourselves in their stories and personally connect regardless of if the story is a folktale, tall tale, personal tale, or any other kind. The story starts normal and then builds upon itself to something extraordinary. Even a contemporary tale transports the listener to another place and new people or characters to meet. In that moment, the ordinary becomes extraordinary.
Antonio Rocha took an ordinary Virtual Reality set and covered his eyes with it. This was extraordinary already as an unspoken rule of storytelling is keeping eye contact. Antonio completely took that away. Yet, his story was of a simple moment of someone open to imagination and confusing with reality. He had the chance to fly and did not feel ready despite having a Virtual Reality set on. It was a pure suspension of disbelief of the most adorable level. He opted for a plank that was high in the sky. He crawled across the carpet as if he would fall to his death. Antonio merged his miming with the narrative. He took a risk telling that story without the assistance of his eyes…but it worked.
Message I Heard from FanX: Discover the Ordinary from the Extraordinary
When you are in the Grand Ballroom with rock music blaring and the emcee reminds you that the special guest can hear you from behind the curtains, many people stand and shout out and await that first glimpse of a celebrity. Oftentimes, the celebrity comes out in casual clothing. One celebrity twirls her hair almost throughout the interview. Another celebrity needs to scratch to be comfortable. Even another celebrity tells “Dad jokes” as the person next door would. In that moment, the extraordinary becomes ordinary.
Susan Egan, known for being Belle in “Beauty and the Beast” for Disney’s first of many musicals, commented on two young women dressed as Belle from the animation. Susan loved how there was not any judgement passed of “who more Belle better.” One had the commoner garb with the white and blue dress while the other had the bright yellow ballgown. She had watched as they approached each other before the panel began so that they could get a picture together. Susan loved that comic conventions could bring people together and be so complimentary. She opened up about how she was known as “Calamity Belle” with breaking or spraining ligaments during Broadway shows. She laughed at her adventures and brought us closer to her. She was like any one of us. I had the privilege of being on the front row of this panel (you can see me in the blue hair and gray cap in the picture above). Susan was asked questions about voicing Megara on the animated Disney “Hercules.” Well, the actual question was, “Can you sing ‘I won’t say I’m in love’?” She still enjoys singing it. She wanted us to be the muses. She filmed it with her phone as we all helped in the tune. Anytime people sing together, there is unity and connection. Singing is an ordinary thing to do as human beings. Again, we felt like she “got us” because she was one of us.
So who wins? Timpanogos Storytelling? FanX?
Here’s a review of the scores:
Timpanogos Earned 4 Points: 1 point for the humor category, 1 point for the multi-generational category, 1 point for miscellaneous (or opportunities beyond what is obvious to the event), and 1 point for message/theme/take-away
FanX Earned 4 Points: 1 point for spine tingling category, 1 point for mingling possibilities, 1 point for miscellaneous (or opportunities beyond what is obvious to the event), and 1 point for message/theme/take-away
My oldest son would never let me end this with a tie. The tie-breaker is in the level of fulfillment once I am driving home and reflecting. This is different than the message/theme/take-away as this is more realizations in the moment versus the impact after the experience.
And the winner is……brummmm, brummmm, brummmm
There were a couple times during FanX that I thought, “I wonder what I could be catching while at Timpanogos?” I knew The Apple Seed Storytelling Radio Show through BYU Radio was live-streaming one of the tents. I was tempted to watch some while at FanX. Then, I had the reassurance that it would still be available after the livestream. Whew! Because there is no Wifi at the Salt Palace (not free anyways) and my cell phone battery would scream at me. Or really go kaput and die.
While driving home from FanX, my husband and I loved sharing moments together. We laughed. We discussed. Though, by the next morning, I did not feel motivated to create more art from what I heard except being inspired to get a couple book proposals done.
While driving home from Timpanogos, my sons and I loved sharing moments together. We laughed. We discussed. Then, the next morning, I was still reflecting on the many styles and types of storytelling. I was motivated to organize my story room better, re-think some stories from decades ago, delve deeper into crafting and where I have strengths and what I am lazy at doing, and finally celebrating on the power of story and reiterating why I have continued this art–on stage and as a festival organizer–for 25 years and counting. I am 40 years old. More than half of my life has been storytelling.
Now…is that something extraordinary becoming ordinary or the ordinary becoming extraordinary? Both. And for this I am thankful.
Until we tell again.
Photo credit: Norm Berke – picture of Antonio Rocha with Virtual Reality set on
Photo credit: FanX – picture of Panel Audience with Susan Egan (and with me in front row)