by Greg Wright

Diane Ferlatte, the National Storytelling Network’s Circle of Excellence Award winner, will be a featured “teller” at this year’s PowellsWood Storytelling Festival.

The first day of the festival, which runs July 18-19 this year at PowellsWood in Federal Way, storytellers engage registered attendees with workshops designed to turn everyday people into tellers of their own stories.

The second day, it’s all telling, all the time at key locations throughout the 3-acre garden. This year’s tellers include Donald Davis, Angela Lloyd, Barbara McBride-Smith, Ed Stivender—and Diane Ferlatte.

I had the opportunity to chat the other day with Ferlatte, fresh from her appearance at the Sydney International Storytelling Conference in Australia.

I understand you were raised in Louisiana. That’s ripe storytelling country. Were you born there?

Grammy-nominted storyteller Diane Ferlatte is featured at the PowellsWood Storytelling Festival

Grammy-nominted storyteller Diane Ferlatte is featured at the PowellsWood Storytelling Festival this year

Diane Ferlatte: I was born in New Orleans and migrated with my parents and two brothers to Oakland, CA when I was nine years old.

Can you recall the first time you were captivated by oral storytelling?

DF: We used to joke that my father had a motor mouth. Both he and my grandparents could really spin yarns on the porch in Louisiana, but I was too young to really appreciate it at the time.

When did you become inspired to start telling stories yourself?

DF: After we adopted our second child, I discovered that he was a TV brain. I had been reading stories to his younger sister but he wasn’t interested. I had to find a way to get him to sit and listen instead of watching TV. So I not only read in a more dramatic way but soon began to tell stories instead of just reading to them. When I was asked to tell stories at a church function, I was hooked. The first professional teller who had a big impact on me was Jackie Torrence.

You spent some time in Georgia’s Sea Islands collecting stories. How did that come about?

DF: I was interested in the Gullah culture and wanted to collect some of their folktales. Problem was, on Sapelo Island’s Hog Hammock community which I visited, the primary storyteller was long in the tooth and couldn’t remember much. So I interviewed and spent time with many of the remaining inhabitants left in that small community whose families had been there for generations since slavery. As a consequence, I developed a show around their various personal stories.

Do stories generally come to you, or do you search them out?

DF: Some stories come to me through personal experiences or through friends, but I do research on historical stories and folktales.

Your scheduled workshop at the PowellsWood Festival this year is titled, “Bringing Stories to Life.” Why is it important for everyday people to learn how to “tell their story,” as opposed to simply passing along facts about who they are?

DF: It is first and foremost important that we talk with one another. Passing along facts is better than nothing, but when we share stories we get a much clearer and meaningful idea of each other. We also are able to relate in a more emotional way to the other person through their stories. In addition, stories are just more interesting.

So is it about more than just leaving a legacy of sorts? Is it also about the “how” of living out our own stories, day by day?

DF: Sometimes we think there isn’t anything interesting about us that we can share, but we all are interesting in different ways, and we all have stories to share.

I hope your experience at PowellsWood this year gives you more stories to tell!

DF: I hope so too, and thank you very much.

For complete Festival schedule information, visit powellswoodfestival.com

PowellsWood: A Northwest Garden
430 South Dash Point Road

Price $15 and up; children’s and family rates available

Online Ticketing at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/531089

by Greg Wright

The PowellsWood Storytelling Festival “is like a little pearl,” enthuses storyteller Syd Lieberman.

The two-day festival, which runs July 18-19 this year at PowellsWood in Federal Way, is decidedly unique.

The first day of the festival, storytellers engage registered guests with workshops designed to turn everyday people into tellers of their own stories. Full-pass participants even get a chance at “Tea with the Tellers” on PowellsWood’s fabled Garden Room Terrace.

DonaldDavis

Donald Davis anchors the lineup of “tellers” at the PowellsWood Storytelling Festival July 18 and 19

The second day, it’s all telling, all the time, with special secret spots in the 3-acre garden set up with tents featuring storytelling tracks for adults, families, and children. This year’s tellers include Donald Davis, Diane Ferlatte, Angela Lloyd, Barbara McBride-Smith, and Ed Stivender.

“I haven’t been to anything like this,” says Lieberman. That’s quite a testimony from the man who’s a regular feature at internationally-renowned festivals like Timpanogos and the National Festival in Jonesborough. “It’s this little special thing in the woods that you come upon and you find,” he continues. “It’s wonderful that way. ‘Wow! I’m telling in this beautiful setting!’”

It’s magical by design, a “fairy tale come true,” to use the words of the Federal Way Mirror.

“Our belief is that people come away from the Festival happier, more joyful,” says garden founder and Festival organizer Monte Powell. “And maybe revitalized—from being here at the Festival, and also from doing the Festival in a beautiful, green environment.”

And make no mistake. The garden setting offers a one-of-a-kind experience. “Telling a story in a garden like this definitely makes a difference,” attests Indian storyteller Jeeva Raghunath, who also appeared at last year’s festival.

“I’ve told stories in the classroom,” she notes. “I’ve told stories in the auditorium. I’ve told stories by the sea. But this is very different, the reason being that it’s very identical: the gardener and the storyteller. Both of them do it with a lot of soul. And stories are not from head to head. It’s from heart to heart. So every story has soul. It has life.”

Festival anchor and master teller Donald Davis has the heart of it.

“I love trees,” says Davis. “They are listeners.”

Visit the PowellsWood Storytelling Festival this year and listen. Listen with the trees.

Listen, and grow.

PowellsWood is located at 430 South Dash Point Road in Federal Way. For complete schedule and parking information, visit powellswoodfestival.com. Price $15 and up; children’s and family rates available. Online Ticketing at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/531089.

PWSF-Logo-300x400July 18-19, 2014

PowellsWood: A Northwest Garden plays host to this annual 2-day festival of the art of storytelling.

The first day, internationally-renowned storytellers engage registered guests with workshops designed to turn everyday people into tellers of their own stories. Full-pass participants even get a chance at “Tea With the Tellers” on PowellsWood’s fabled Garden Room Terrace.

The second day, it’s all telling, all the time, with special secret spots in the 3-acre garden set up with tents featuring storytelling tracks for adults, families, and children.

For complete schedule information, visit powellswoodfestival.com

Phone (253) 529-1620
Price $5 – $125

Mothers Day 2014 Poster AltA great garden brings people together; visit PowellsWood Garden this Mother’s Day weekend, May 10-11, 2014 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with your mother or child and share the magic of this remarkable garden.

Entrance is $5.00 for adults and children under 12 are free.

Together explore the updated grounds and garden features via a new self-guided tour. Relax and visit in the Garden Room where tea, scones, lemonade, and cookies will be available for purchase from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Musical entertainment will be available both days as well!

PWSF-Logo-300x400by Greg Wright

Storytelling has become a worldwide phenomenon. The Puget Sound’s newest annual festival, hosted at PowellsWood Garden on the upper edge of the Redondo greenbelt, is expanding this year to include a global-village emphasis. Tamil storyteller Jeeva Raghunath, based in Chennai, India, will be headlining the PowellsWood Storytelling Festival, now in its second year.

The festival runs July 26 and 27th and features a day of workshops in addition to a full day of storytelling.

One of the garden’s four storytelling venues, the spectacular and newly redesigned Perennial Borders, will feature a daylong program with an international focus titled, “Lively World Folktales for All Ages.” Jeeva-Portrait-199x300Raghunath (right) will be contributing along with Heather Forest and internationally-renowned local teller Margaret Read MacDonald. Festival newcomer Syd Lieberman will also co-host a session in the Spring Garden titled, “Traditions: Tamil, Jewish, Borneo.”

In addition, Donald Davis will share evocative tales from his North Carolina childhood, and Heather Forest will delight with her singing fables and with stories of her life as a gardener.

Now in its second year, the PowellsWood Storytelling Festival was inspired by PowellsWood owner Monte Powell’s annual visits to the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. When Powell discovered that MacDonald had moved almost literally into his own backyard, creative sparks flew—and the Festival was born.

The Festival’s first edition in 2012 was a wild success, featured in a national network broadcast on CBS Sunday Morning. The Festival was anchored by Jonesborough regular Donald David, who is back again for the 2013 edition.

Raghunath is particularly excited to be participating in a Pacific Rim festival. She has represented India at 17 international storytelling festivals around the globe, training over 25,000 children and adults in the art of “telling.” Having conducted over 500 performances, Raghunath has also translated 45 books into Tamil from English. Her storytelling style leaves audiences spell-bound. She believes that she herself is the best prop for her storytelling.

Tickets to the event range from $10 full-day passes for the Saturday storytelling sessions to two-day passes priced at $120, which also include Friday workshops with Donald Davis and Syd Lieberman. Children’s and family rates are also available.

Learn more about the Festival at PowellsWoodFestival.com… and check out the CBS News report (below) that featured the 2012 PowellsWood Storytelling Festival.

by Greg Wright

Earlier this summer, Monte Powell’s garden in Federal Way played host to a new regional storytelling festival… the PowellsWood Storytelling Festival. Curated by Des Moines resident Margaret Read MacDonald, a Huntington Park retiree from the King County Library System, the festival drew hundreds of visitors in its first year.

Eth-Noh-Tec at the 2012 PowellsWood Storytelling Festival. Photograph copyright Christopher Nelson.

It also drew the attention of CBS producers, who came to Federal Way to observe and speak with featured “teller” Donald Davis, an artist of international reputation–like MacDonald herself. The segment aired last week on CBS (see below) and is described as follows:

Whether it’s Mother Goose, the tales of the Brothers Grimm, even the parables of Christ, you might say the human mind is hard-wired to respond to stories. In fact storytelling may be the oldest art form.

Correspondent Serena Altschul explores our oral tradition at those Woodstocks of words, storytelling festivals – there are dozens of such fests to be found around the country. We visited one of the newest, the PowellsWood Storytelling Festival, just outside of Seattle.

Plans are naturally already in the works for the 2013 edition of the Festival, though dates and schedules have not officially been announced yet. We’ll naturally bring you news as it breaks. This is one of those events to plan your entire summer around!

Learn more about the Festival at PowellsWoodFestival.com.

by Greg Wright

Over 340 guests showed up at PowellsWood Garden on Dash Point Road July 14 to sample some seventeen total hours of storytelling from ten different storytellers, and everyone seemed delighted with the variety of remarkable storytelling they experienced. Something for all ages, and every taste.

Debra Harris-Branham holds day campers spellbound

Debra Harris-Branham holds day campers spellbound

Federal Way Mirror journalist Andy Hobbs described the festival as a fairy tale come true, “an opportunity for Federal Way to sample culture and nature, right here at home. PowellsWood gave people across the region a good reason to visit and play. Most importantly, the festival nourished the community’s lifeblood.”

On Friday, July 13, around 450 daycamp children and leaders also tromped into the gardens to sit in the shade of an awning (one hundred at a time) and listen to three tellers wow them with tales.

The term most used by adults and children alike was… magical!

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The organizers expect this to become an annual event. Follow the website for updates.