After how much I enjoyed the July Story Circle and the first event of the Summer Series, I decided to go to another storytelling event. This one is part two of three of the Summer Series, and it is featuring Anita Best and Karen Carroll, telling stories about womanhood. This time, I drag my cousin Allison along for the experience
We finally arrive at The Rooms, just before the stories begin.
I greet the women at the admissions desk, and tell them that I work with the Storytelling Festival.
“Claire with the dark hair?” One of the admissions women ask, looking at what I assume is a guest list.
“That’s me!” I reply and flash a smile.
Her coworker meets Allison’s gaze. “Are you a student?”
“Yep.” Allison replies, getting cash out of her wallet.
“You’ll have to pay.” The lady says with a chuckle, Allison replies with a nod. She takes her button, putting it on her shirt.
“I have no plus one.” I laugh, and exaggerate a frown. I scan the staircase. “Wait, which way?”
“The theatre is upstairs.” My cousin replies, pointing to the sign a floor up that says ”.
“Right, yeah.” I scratch the back of my neck. “I uh, knew that.” We make our way into the theatre.
When we get there, the Festival Admin Kailey has already started their introduction of the nights tellers. As they speak, Allison and I make our way to the back, as to not disturb or distract anyone. The event once again did not fail to bring out a crowd, and I feel a sense of accomplishment and pride swell in my chest. I’m glad Allison can’t see me at this moment, as she’d probably ask what I’m smiling about.
The theatre is ‘high quality’ for lack of a better word. The lighting resembles that of a concert hall, and I notice professional production equipment in the room behind us as I look at my reflection in the glass. The atmosphere feels warm and welcoming, which I notice is a constant at storytelling events. While the theatre is not as rustic as The Crows Nest Officers’ Club, or as open as The Lantern, I still feel a wave of relaxation and comfort wash over me as I get comfortable in my seat. As the first teller gets up on stage, the familiar blanket of attention and respect covers everyone in the audience, from ages eight to eighty.
Karen Carroll speaks first, dressed in costume. I infer that it resembles what women wore ‘back in the day’. She begins with a tale about her mother and living in an old salt box house in Carbonear. She mentions how as a young child, she never thought much of how much work her mother did. “… Like an orchestra conductor,” Karen says of her mother, and talks about how while parenting has evolved, the tasks are still the same. A mother still puts clothes out on the line to dry. She then presents a recitation she wrote about household chores. “Stories written on my heart and in my mind… clothes on my line.” Applause fills the theatre as Karen finished her poem.
Anita Best then gets up on stage, and begins a folk tale about a big, hairy, ugly girl named Peg Bearskin. She talks about how Pig defeated a witch, and retrieved gifts for a king in exchange for his princes marrying her and her sisters. As Anita talks, her tale draws gasps and laughter from the audience. In the tradition of these tales, hers ends with “If the table had been stronger, my tale would be longer.”
Intermission starts, so Allison and I get up to stretch our legs.
“Wanna find something to eat?” I ask my cousin, as I remember that neither of us have eaten supper yet. Allison nods, and we head up another floor to the cafe. Along the way, we run into my pal Rebekah Nolan who also works in radio and folklore. We chat with her briefly, then continue on to the cafe. Allison decides to get a caramel coffee cake muffin.
As the intermission ends, my cousin and I sit our bums back in our seats.
Karen takes the stage again, this time telling a story about her grandmother. She talks about a pair of brothers who married two women, both named Liz, referred to as Pat’s Liz and Mick’s Liz so no one got confused. The story details the lives of these two very different Lizzes, with lots of wit and laughter from the crowd. “God bless em now, they’re all in the graveyard and peace is with them now,” Karen finishes. She then delivers another recitation called “The Tale of Two Lizzes.” The audience gives a round of applause, then Anita comes back up to close the show.
She tells a story of a midwife named Kit McGraw, who knew that nursing was a dangerous occupation, and who never let horrendous weather stop her from delivering babies. Anita mentions one particularly harrowing delivery amidst a terrible storm, but which has a punch line at the end that puts the audience in stitches. Anita tells another quick story about a woman who was taken by fairies, and the trials and tribulations that allowed her husband to bring her back to life.
The event comes to an end, Allison and I wait around the outside of the theatre for Rebekah, as she’s walking home the same way we are. I breathe a breath of satisfaction, feeling glad that I stated going to storytelling events. I decide right at this moment that I’m not gonna stop being involved with storytelling anytime soon.