Grand Circle Storytelling Festival returns on Sept. 15
With the first storytelling festival under his belt, Steven Law is feeling optimistic that this year’s event will be a success.
“I learned a lot from last year’s festival,” said Law, producer for the Grand Circle Storytelling Festival. “It was a steep learning curve, but it turned out great, and through it all I learned what I can do better and a few tricks to make it run smoother.”
The 2nd Annual Grand Circle Storytelling Festival returns to Page Friday, Sept. 15, with a new cast of storytellers.
“I really needed last year’s event to be a good one,” Law said. “It needed to be the kind of thing people talked about afterward, so I specifically booked Bil Lepp and Rosemerry Trommer. I knew their material and their stagecraft could be amazing, and it was. I think it got people talking.”
Seventy people attended last year’s inaugural storytelling festival. Law said 165 tickets have already been sold for this year’s festival. (Advance tickets are available for purchase at the Page Public Library.)
Law said that a few questions and misconceptions still linger around what actually happens at a storytelling festival.
“A lot of people who have never been to a storytelling festival probably picture an old man or an old lady reading stories to kids, and that’s not at all what it’s like,” Law said. “Yes, the material is kid-appropriate. There’s not any swearing or off-color subjects, but the stories are meant for an adult audience. Kids will enjoy the stories, and kids are certainly welcome, but the stories are written for adults.”
Law will also be one of this year’s storytellers. He will be joined by Jesse Maloney and Kim Weitkamp. Page’s own Tito Hoover will act as the event’s MC.
Maloney is a Diné poet. He lives in Tuba City and teaches composition at Diné College. He will be telling a braided poem about the impact the COVID pandemic had on the Navajo Nation. A braided poem is a series of six to eight poems. Each poem tells its own little story, and the series of poems told together weave a larger narrative.
“It’s one of my favorite forms of storytelling,” Law said. “I don’t see it at too many other storytelling festivals, but it’s something I plan to cultivate at the Grand Circle Storytelling Festival. I plan to include a braided poem every year.
“I really love Jesse’s work,” Law said. “I asked him to be one of this year’s presenters almost as soon as last year’s storytelling festival wrapped. I am really forward to hearing what he has created for this.”
Law will be telling two stories when he takes the stage this year, both of which are about things going sideways during outdoor adventures.
Weitkamp is this year’s headliner. She has a deep library of stories to choose from, and she typically doesn’t plan her stories ahead of time.
“I decide which story to tell in the moment,” she said. “I wait to see what stories the other tellers have told, and the energy of audience and choose something to keep that energy going.”
Weitkamp is an award-winning storyteller, author, singer-songwriter and humorist from Ohio. Her performances may include singing with a guitar, humor or something serious. They may be true or they may be tall.
“Most of my stories are about everyday life and humanity,” she said.
Weitkamp is a highly sought after performer who, during peak storytelling season, is on the road for months at a time doing several performances a week.
Law was very excited when he learned Weitkamp had open dates on her tour schedule the same time as his storytelling festival.
“Weitkamp is one of my top three favorite storytellers,” he said. “She does an amazing job telling stories, but one of her other talents is her ability to read the crowd and choose a story that fits the moment and the mood. Her stories always land perfectly. Kim Weitkamp is to storytelling what Santa Claus is to Christmas.”
The Grand Circle Storytelling Festival is done in collaboration between the Page Unified School District and Page Public Library, and it includes an educational component. As part of the festival, the storytellers will meet with certain students from Page High School, Page Middle School and Desert View Intermediate. Maloney will meet with students from the high school and middle school’s Navajo Language and Navajo Government classes. He’ll discuss with them the role that storytelling can play in preserving and celebrating Diné history, heritage and culture.
Meanwhile, Weitkamp will meet with Desert View’s fifth graders. Her time will include a short storytelling performance and then she’ll do a workshop with them about the process of creating and sharing a story.
“It’s a very important component of the storytelling festival,” Law said. “We started it last year with the first festival and I think the students got a lot out of it.”
Law said his goal is to build the Grand Circle Storytelling Festival into something the people of Page look forward to every year.
“Stories have a magical ability to bring people together in ways nothing else can,” Law said. “There’s just something cozy and magic about coming together in a shared space and hearing a good story together.”
The 2nd Annual Grand Circle Storytelling Festival is Friday, Sept. 15, at 7 p.m. in the Cultural Arts Building in Page.