||A Word from the (New) President
A listener who attended our recent 12-hour telling of Homer’s Iliad
confided afterward, “I admired, but didn't like, the Iliad before, and
I think it has something to do with it needing to be told to an
audience (not read, and not privately). Live performance makes an
unbelievable difference.” For me, this comment gets to the heart
of the mission of Ottawa StoryTellers. We have often been told
that human beings are hard-wired for narrative, and we can all become
engrossed in a novel, a movie or a television show; but OST’s special
corner of the vast empire of narrative is the living encounter between
teller and listener. Such a simple truth, and yet we still have
to work to communicate it to the wider world.
How many times have
people asked you “and where do you read your stories?” Ma’am, we
have plenty of respect for reading aloud, but this is something quite
different. Storytellers do it from memory! And we do it
without a net. Ask the eighteen Iliad tellers, who each had up to
half an hour of Homeric story to deliver, faithfully, passionately, and
with an eye to the larger arc of the story being created collectively
Whether we are telling a centuries-old epic, a literary story, an
episode out of history or a personal anecdote, the heart of the
experience is a living, fearful-trusting encounter between the teller
and the listeners. At the best of times we have just enough fear
to focus the mind and lift the energy. We have enough trust to
venture out along a frail bridge of words spoken aloud; and by
trusting, we win the trust of the listeners, which is ultimately the
only thing that keeps that gossamer bridge up in the air.
Starting out as the new President of Ottawa StoryTellers, I have felt
both fear and trust. Will I be able to understand and do all that
is expected of me? Will I live up to the examples of presidents
past? OST is a much larger, busier and more complex organization
than it was last time I served on the Board, many years ago.
There are many issues, challenges, opportunities and responsibilities
that were hardly thought of back then. But though I have felt
some apprehension about my new role, I have also felt trust – and a
deep appreciation– for the generosity, skills and energy of my fellow
Board members, of all the volunteers, and of our brand-new Artistic
Manager, Laurie Fyffe, who has
joined us to carry on and develop further the tremendous contributions
of our newly retired Managing Artistic Director, Caitlyn Paxson.
With so many good people contributing their energies to storytelling
and the community of tellers and listeners, it is surely a good time to
Keep telling! Keep listening!
From your newsletter editorI
am typing away as the cooling rain falls, as I prepare for the upcoming
Iliad performance at the Fourth Stage of the National Arts Centre here
in Ottawa. Each of the individuals involved have been writing, telling,
blogging about this show to the network of friends and acquaintances.
We have been talking with each other, supporting, critiquing, and
lending a helping hand to prepare for the twelve hour event. One would
think there was no provincial election, no World Cup, no Stanley Cup.
And so was the attitude of the tellers before they closed upon the
In the last few months storytelling in Ottawa has continued along its
merry way. Individual projects, tellings in schools, the retirement of
Caitlyn Paxson, and the welcoming of Laurie Fyffe as Artistic Director.
The Un(told) series in its initial months is a success, with the small
room at The Daily Grind on Somerset already bursting at the seams with
attendees and participants. A lovely addition to the Swap. Brass and
story have also paired for more public concerts, along the Rideau
Once again, thanks go out to the many voices that contribute to this
newsletter. Words from Nicole, a freshly published author. Murray, who
trumpets a touring success. Peggy, a new member who writes about a grandmother to grandmother fundraiser. Janet, who brought back her experiences from the Toronto Storytelling Festival. Pat, who shared his photographs. Laurie, who intrigues us with her introduction. And Kathie, who reached out to
Peterborough's tellers, and brought them to the Tea Party to make our
community all the richer in experiences.
I have added a downloadable pdf file of the OST newsletter. It does not
include the links. But it does include most of the articles.
If you wish to open the file, or download it, please click here.