A shepherd boy eludes trolls in Iceland. A girl grows up in the Bronx. A young man learns to drive. These were just a few of the stories brought to life by local storytellers at the annual “Tellabration!” on Tuesday evening.
“Tellabration!” — run by the National Storytelling Network — is a worldwide phenomenon that features storytelling events held independently around the globe. The New Haven edition, which was co-sponsored by the Connecticut Storytelling Center, took place over the course of two evenings — Thursday, Nov. 9 and Tuesday, Nov. 14 — at the Institute Library. Between the two nights, more than 50 attendees watched 10 storytellers spin their craft. The event marked the culmination of a series of workshops at the library, in which storytellers shared their tales and received feedback from one another.
The library’s storytelling initiative “is not just about putting on a good show but about creating a community,” said Arnie Pritchard GRD ’76, the event organizer and a veteran storyteller.
Although “Tellabration!” is an international event, the Institute Library, which hosts New Haven’s only “Tellabration,” has put its own spin on the global tradition. Pritchard said most host institutions have “stables” of storytellers — pools of professional tellers from whom they always pull. But at the Institute Library, anyone can participate.
“We start out in September with literally no idea who will be telling,” Pritchard said. Underlying this method is the belief that “every human being is a storyteller,” he added.
There was a wide range of storytelling experience among participants at the workshops leading up to the “Tellabration,” from those with little or no experience to those with more than 30 years under their belts.
The Institute Library also hosts monthly, informal storytelling groups as another way to involve members of the community who may have less experience, Pritchard said.
“It is really a special thing that someone can walk in having never told a story before and really develop [as a storyteller],” said Sara deBeer ’81, one of the storytellers at the event on Tuesday.
As an undergraduate at Yale, deBeer became fascinated with African folklore and decided she would try her hand at storytelling. She has been telling stories ever since. Although she currently lives in West Hartford, she still comes down to New Haven to participate in the workshops and “Tellabration” at the Institute Library.
Like Pritchard, deBeer emphasized the tight sense of community the storytelling group has developed at the library. Through the process of storytelling, receiving feedback, retelling and listening to others, she said, participants gain “mutual trust.”
“You just really get to know each other,” she said.
The poet laureate of Wallingford, Tarn Granucci, also participated in the celebration on Tuesday evening. He had been compiling a list of stories — 50, to be exact, and all of them true — and the “Tellabration” presented a perfect opportunity to share them, he said. This year was his second time telling a story at the “Tellabration.”
Another teller in attendance was Dana Savo, who tells stories when she is not working as a psychiatric nurse. In an interview with the News, she highlighted the unique oral component of storytelling.
“A lot of us believe in orality as a value,” she said. Stories undergo many changes during the process of writing and editing, which diminish some of the beauty and rawness of the story. But oral delivery preserves those features, she said.
Pritchard agreed. “The listener is a co-creator of the story,” he said. “The teller never tells you everything.”
This was the fourth annual “Tellabration” at the Institute Library.
Max Graham | email@example.com