Avia Moore believes a good storyteller is someone who engages their audience on a variety of levels.
“When you’re in the presence of a good storyteller, you can feel that they have the room in the palm of their hand,” said Moore, the organizer of this year’s Kootenay Storytelling Festival.
“They do that through the stories they choose to tell, the style they choose to tell it in. The good ones draw you in mentally, spiritually, emotionally.”
The festival, which runs from September 18 to 21, will feature a huge variety of entertainers. Moore said she’s thrilled to have BC writer Ivan E. Coyote as a headliner on Thursday night.
“I think Ivan is an amazing author and a phenomenal storyteller,” said Moore.
“The first time I called them about coming to the festival, they had me in stitches on the phone describing the performance they were going to do.”
(Coyote does not believe in a gender binary and chooses to identify with gender-neutral pronouns such as “they” and “them” rather than “he” or “she”.)
Coyote’s pieces will be underscored by original compositions from musician Jon Wood.
“The story we’re featuring is called ‘Kraft Singles for Everyone’. I don’t want to give away the punchline, but it starts out talking about their aging grandmother and then we have some Kraft singles that may or may not have the plastic left on them for grilled cheese sandwiches.”
Moore said Coyote is capable of sharing a vulnerability that will help stimulate self-reflection in the audience.
“It takes a lot of courage to tell personal stories, to open up and bring humour to it. It really sets them apart. They are so versatile, I find them really engaged. There’s a stage personality that seems to appeal to a wide cross-section of people.”
Moore said Coyote’s performance isn’t appropriate for children, but a number of the acts over the course of the weekend are specifically aimed at a younger demographic.
“Anne Glover is always so well received. Last year she told her stories in English and French, which was a great way to reach out to French Canadians. Her long event was packed, we couldn’t have got another person in there.”
The festival will also feature international talent, as this year Tokyo artist Masako Sueyoshi will be in attendance.
“The Kootenays have such a strong Japanese history, and we haven’t been telling those stories. I think it’s important to recognize that part of our cultural heritage,” said Moore.
“When I was growing up I always felt like Japanese history was such a part of our culture, so it’s pretty great that our first international artist is from Japan.”
Local storyteller Magpie Ulysses will anchor Friday night’s performance.
“She is an amazing, award-winning national level performance poet. She’s got a new piece she’s been developing over the past few years with Canada Council funding. It’s about her experience hitchhiking across Canada, and this will be the Nelson premiere of that piece,” she said.
Ulysses’ poetry will be accompanied by original music composed by James Lamb.
“We also have Pauline Lamb, another local musician…It’s a really special occasion to have her, because she’s such a beloved local favourite,” she said.
Other storytellers participating in this year’s festival include Mariella Bertelli, Zaccheus Jackson, Carolyn McTaggart, Joe Pierre, Richard Rowberry and Bessie Wapp.
For more information visit kootenaystory.org.