The Ann Arbor Storytellers Guild
Preserving a legacy
by Megan Inbody
From the September, 2019 issue
Anthropologists say that storytelling is central to human existence. Our impulse to narrativize our existence has been explained by cognitive scientists as a mechanism to spread knowledge by broadcasting social norms and by evolutionary psychologists as making society work better by encouraging ethical behavior.
All this is to say that oral storytelling isn't just for kids or ancient hunter-gatherer societies. Storytelling is for adults, and I'd argue that stories--listening to and telling them--are more important than ever. We need to remember and cherish the full range of human experience, and the members of the Ann Arbor Storytellers Guild are capable custodians of that vital legacy.
The Storytellers Guild presents a "Story Night" at Crazy Wisdom Bookstore & Tea Room a few times a year. It's a cozy performance space, with tea and baked goods available for purchase. It's a relaxed, warm atmosphere, with guild members making a point of welcoming every audience member, especially new ones.
The night I attended had a special performance by two guest storytellers, Jeff Doyle and Ingrid Nixon, who presented "The Lost Diaries of Eve and Adam," their hilarious adaptation of Mark Twain's ironic The Diaries of Adam and Eve, which traces the origin of the battle of the sexes back to the Garden of Eden.
AASG president Steve Daut performed Twain's enduring "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County." Classroom overexposure has caused me to develop an absolute loathing for that story, so when it was announced on the program, my own stomach felt filled with the same quail shot as the frog Dan'l Webster. I am both surprised and pleased to report that, with Daut's masterful performance, the tale plays much better than it reads. His performance showed that he gets Twain in a way that I don't, but for that magical time during his storytelling, I wanted to.
Guild member Laura Lee Hayes told a funny and charming story about her days as an animal tamer in the
circus. Needless to say, there's a pretty steep learning curve, although, as she tells it, the animals were more than patient with her. Her performance was in a different style than Daut, who had dressed in old-timey clothes for his performance. She opted for a more casual delivery, but she was equally engaging.
The Storytellers Guild does engage in cultural preservation, but they're also darn good fun, and some of the nicest people I've ever met. If you can't catch them at Crazy Wisdom, they also have public monthly meetings at the downtown library on the fourth Sunday of the month.
"Story Night" on September 12 features Beverly Black, Jill Halpern, Steve Daut, and Laura Lee Hayes.
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