Evanston library to celebrate art of storytelling with inaugural festival

Evanston Public Library will host its first-ever storytelling festival this weekend. The free festival features six nationally-touring storytellers as well as students from elementary school to college.

Daily file photo by Melody Song

Evanston Public Library will host its first-ever storytelling festival this weekend. The free festival features six nationally-touring storytellers as well as students from elementary school to college.

Juliet Freudman, Reporter

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Evanston Public Library aims to celebrate the art of storytelling during a festival this weekend in locations across the city.

In addition to students from elementary schools and colleges, six featured storytellers who tour nationally will perform in the “Stories by the Lake” festival from Friday to Sunday. In an effort to make the festival an inclusive event for the entire community, there will also be an open mic night at the Celtic Knot pub where anyone can participate.

The venues include EPL, the Celtic Knot and Woman’s Club of Evanston. The free festival targets a variety of audiences, said Jill Schacter (Medill ’84), EPL’s marketing and communications director.

“Our festival will look like our community in terms of the types of stories that we’ll offer,” Schacter said.

The programs include African-American folktales, stories told in Spanish, performances geared toward young children and others toward adults. Such variety allows for a schedule in which everyone in the community can find something that connects to them, Schacter said.

The festival, which has been in the works for almost a year, starts Friday evening with the featured storytellers. Apart from the performances, a writing workshop and a discussion panel will be held Sunday.

Leading the writing workshop, NU alumnus and featured storyteller Antonio Sacre (Communication ‘91) will focus on motivating writers. The panel, moderated by theater Prof. Rives Collins, will feature five speakers experienced in the study of storytelling, who will grapple with the question of whether storytelling has relevance in today’s high-tech world.

“It’s all about being with the audience in that moment — it’s about being present,” Communication sophomore Fiona Maxwell said. “Storytelling is a generous art form in that it gives a gift to the audience. You’re letting them into your personal world. It’s really giving a piece of yourself.”

Maxwell is one of six NU students chosen to participate in the EPL Storytelling Festival, along with Communication sophomore Shea Lee, Communication junior Martin Downs, Communication senior Nikki Rosengren, and alumnae Sarah Cartwright (Communication ’15) and Katie Incardona (Communication ’15).

Collins, the NU theater professor and panel moderator, said traditional storytelling is not reading a story out loud. Storytellers know the basic structure, but everything in between comes in the moment, allowing the teller more freedom and deepening the interaction between the teller and the audience, he said.

“When someone tells you a story, there’s an interaction that you don’t get when a person reads a story on a piece of paper because you’re dealing with another human being and all that involves,” said Susan Stone, founder and co-director of the storytelling festival. “Being told a story is much more intimate.”

Collins said he hopes the festival continues for years to come.

“I love that they’re calling it the ‘first annual,’ and I’ll do everything I can to make sure that this is the first of many,” Collins said. “We have some world-class storytelling happening right in Northwestern’s backyard.”

Email: julietfreudman2018@u.northwestern.edu

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