Pull up a chair and sit for a spell. It’s time for a story from Terri Haag, the Development Director for the Pima Library Foundation. Terri also happens to be curator of A Million Stories, a new Tucson Meet Yourself program set to be unveiled at La Cocina in the Old Town Artisans Courtyard in October. Once attendees cross the Courtyard threshold and experience the A Million Stories Stage, they will be transported… fueled by the firepower of creative and entertaining local storytelling.
A Million Stories will feature great local storytellers. Highlights include: Ron Lancaster, past president of Tellers of Tales. There also will be Jean Baxter, in period costume, telling “Stories of El Presidio San Agustin.” World-famous Tucson percussionist Will Clipman will perform Myths and Masks. Bridget Magee, a seasoned member of Toastmaster (as well as writer, poet, mom, and a former teacher/librarian), will tell humorous stories about a dangerous desert animal encounter. M2M, a storytelling gypsy band, featuring Catherine Zavala of the Mollies fame, will perform A Gypsy Love Story complete with costumes and exotic instruments. William Don Carlos and his bagpipers will tell the musical story of bagpipes and how they were once outlawed as instruments of war. Other local storytellers will do comedy routines, children’s stories and more. (See http://www.pimalibraryfoundation.org/#!outstanding-stories/cnuo)
The idea for A Million Stories was serendipity, says Terri, who recounts: “As with lots of things in life, a random event can spin off into wildly unpredictable territory. In the case of A Million Stories, I was ‘surfing’ the net and saw a picture of a terra cotta Pueblo storyteller – the one that’s like the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe – except in the Pueblo version the woman is telling lots of children a story. The first Pueblo storyteller was crafted by master sculptor from Cochiti Pueblo Helen Cordero. She created this first pottery figurine of an adult male with numerous children clinging to every part of him. This was the beginning of the “storyteller” figurine and was inspired by memories of her grandfather years earlier—a tribute to him—who was a storyteller at the pueblo. The work has been reproduced in a million ways, as well. I also was looking for a cover image for a Pima Library Foundation report, and it caught my attention, especially since the Pima County Public Library is all about stories…stories in books, magazines, comics, video games – literally millions of stories in words and pictures. I realized that there are now a million people in Tucson and Pima County and each one has a unique story of their own, as well.”
Terri continues: “Another random event put Jo Schneider, the owner of La Cocina with me at a table one morning, and Jo wondered if PLF couldn’t do something at Old Town Artisans during Tucson Meet Yourself. The storytelling idea is so perfect for the venue, the festival, and of course Tucson. We are very excited!”
Terri grew up in a family of storytellers and didn’t just listen to the stories – she absorbed them and shaped her life around them. “My grandmother, Onnie, didn’t read stories to me, she told stories to me,” recalls Terri. “My favorites were about Big and Beg, two elves and their faerie wives, Goldie and Beauty. Hers were original, completely enchanting stories that she made up on the spot. My mother also told adorable original stories about the adventures of two “maiden ants” (sic). That was how people lived before there was constant TV and constant internet and constant telephoning and texting. We were connected in a way that I’m afraid people will never be again – it was a way to look directly into another person’s head, heart, soul through their eyes and voice and gestures.”
In addition to her work at the Library, Terri wears other “hats” as freelance writer and museum exhibit designer. In her exhibit work, Terri is a master papier-mâché artist and sculptor, creating everything from giant swimming plesiosaurs to a (non-working) model of an early atom bomb. She sculpts using a variety of materials including polyurethane foam, resins, cement, epoxy putty, even milk cartons. Terri expects to bring these talents to bear at A Million Stories stage, where she will create a life-size papier-mâché original Storyteller doll. The doll will encourage TMY attendees to “give” their stories to the Storyteller doll, and many stories submitted will be selected to be read during TMY.
“I am going to build a giant-sized version of that Puebla storyteller doll in papier-mâché for people to put their stories into during the TMY festivities,” says Terri. “We will choose a couple of stories every day and read them out loud to the crowd. It should be really fun.”
Through stories, Terri hopes, the community will meet characters familiar and strange, with a range of life experiences. As they listen to the stories as well as the tones and rhythm of the words… they’ll be encouraged to imagine their own narratives, reaffirm faith and confidence in themselves and their stories.
“We are all storytellers,” she says. “Stories reach out to inspire, to make a community laugh, think, grow and be delighted in imaginative and creative adventure. It’s a universal tradition where each interpretation is unique and fun. We hope people will come to hear real stories being told by real people and write their own stories to give to the Storyteller. It’s going to rock.”
There is still time for storytellers to sign up for A Million Stories. Contact Terri Haag: firstname.lastname@example.org
–The National Storytelling Conference will be held August 1-4 in VA. Learn more at the National Storytelling Network: http://www.storynet.org/
–Storytelling has a place in Education: http://www.ncte.org/positions/statements/teachingstorytelling
–Terri Haag’s Archeo~Arts restoration project:www.archeoarts.com
–Helen Cordero’s National Heritage Fellowship page http://nea.gov/honors/heritage/fellows/fellow.php?id=1986_03&type=bio