Monday, August 5, 2013

Thoughts on the 2013 NSN Conference


Finances have been tight since our move from Virginia to North Carolina, prompting me to buy only the Performance Package for the 2013 National Storytelling Network (NSN) Conference -  themed “ Story: Seed of Creativity.” I missed the wonderful workshops, but there were performances of all kinds sprinkled throughout the schedule, so I still managed to have a delightful time.
Brief summaries of performances I attended:

Denise Bennett’s fringe, “The Heart’s True Scale” was gripping, heartfelt, and downright hilarious. I have seen this show grow from a seed to a glorious flower. Every time I see it, I find something new to admire.

The four story showcases featured tellers galore from all experience levels. All of the stories were well-told. The one I am best remembering is Miriam Nadel’s tale of her experience on the television game show “Jeopardy.” I just started watching this show a month ago, and I enjoyed hearing about the hoops one must jump through to be a contestant.  I am also remembering Fred Powers, who authentically portrayed a coal miner caught in a life-threatening experience. Gary Lloyd’s clever ode to chocolate tweaked my appetite for sweet treats. Arianna Ross broke my heart with her story of a woman living in a Bosnian refugee camp.

Diane Edgecomb and Margot Chamberlain once again wowed the audience with their brilliance and synchronicity in their Fringe “New Age Gawain and the Green Knight.” I never tire of seeing these two women perform together. Margot’s harp flows perfectly with Diane’s every move. Imagine the hours of practice it must take to work so well together!  Look for Diane at the 2013 National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, where she will be featured as a new voice.

Bernadette Nason’s fringe, “Tea in Tripoli,” follows the journey of a na├»ve young English Woman who takes a contract job to work for a year in Tripoli. Little does she know the complex and dangerous life that awaits her there.  I felt as though I were going through the experience with her.

The All Regions Story Slam – “Create,” hosted by the always witty and always captivating Kim Weitkamp was a hoot! Congratulations to winners Yvonne Healey (3rd place), Lynn Ruehlmann (2nd place), and Elzora Dennison Trimmer (1st place). Judges Sheila Arnold, Adam Booth, and Leeny Del Seamonds had a tough job, as there were many stories worthy of prizes. I enjoyed getting to hear my old friend Jim Harriman of Connecticut spin a yarn at the slam.

The members meeting revealed a board that has been hard at work to make NSN relevant, motivating, and financially sound. We learned that three cities are being considered to be NSN’s new home: Kansas City, MO (which has already made a nice offer), Pittsburgh, Pa, and Chicago, IL.  Board Chairman Alton Chung announced that next year’s conference will be held in July in Phoenix, AZ.

The closing ceremony featured the incomparable Latin Ballet of Virginia, dancing “The Legend of the Sleeping Princess.” This performance left me speechless! The colorful costumes, the grace and skill of the dancers (how do they make it look so effortless?), and the spellbound audience combined to create an unforgettable world where fantasy and music were braided together to hold us under their spell.

The NSN Oracle Awards saw many storytellers being rewarded for their years of service to the storytelling community. Lifetime Achievement Awards were presented to  Elizabeth Ellis, Syd Lieberman, and Diane Wolkstein  (posthumously). Lynette Ford, Andy Offutt Irwin, Angel Lloyd, Kevin Locke, Olga Loya, and Patricia Coffie received  Circle of Excellence Awards. Judy Sima received an award for Distinguished National Service. Regional Awards were given to Ellouise Schoettler, Jim Dieckmann, Judith Heineman, Alden (Joe) Doolittle, Karen Ferris Morgan, and MyLinda Butterworth. Congratulations to all!

Of course, being in the company of friends that I do not get to see often is the best part of the festival for me. Leeny Del  Seamonds, storyteller extraordinaire, was my roommate and was delightful company. I got to have meals with pals from all over the country. I even made a few new friends! I was sorry to leave Richmond, but I am already looking for to next year in Phoenix.

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