Alumna stepping into Azalea Storytelling spotlight

Alumna stepping into Azalea Storytelling spotlight

March 2, 2015

Carol Howington Cain '85 is no stranger to the stage, having appeared in countless productions dating back to her days as a student at LaGrange College.

Now a drama teacher at Troup High School in LaGrange, Cain is as comfortable in the theater as she is in the classroom. But that isn't quite the case for her upcoming appearance in this year's 19th Azalea Storytelling Festival, March 6-8.

She's served as the emcee for the event for 10 years, but this time, she will step into the spotlight as a featured storyteller. It's a role she said she finds "exciting and nerve-wracking."

"I am honored that the festival committee has faith in my storytelling work and wants a larger audience to see what I do," she said.

But a look at the list of fellow storytellers brings her almost to the state of panic.

"I thought, 'Oh my gosh! What were you thinking when you said yes?'" she said with a laugh. "But at the same time, I know these four gentlemen and I know they will take care of me and they want me to succeed. I couldn't be in better company."

Appearing with Cain is longtime-Azalea favorite Donald Davis, as well as Kevin Kling and Bil Lepp. Ed Stivender will serve as emcee.

Cain said she considers Davis her mentor.

"I've attended a week-long storytelling workshop led by Donald Davis every summer for the past 10 years. Most of my stories were birthed at one of his workshops.

"Donald's support and his training in story crafting have been invaluable in my growth as a storyteller," she said. "What an honor to share the stage with someone whose work I admire so much."

But Azalea audience members need not fear.

"While I will miss emceeing, I am thrilled that Ed Stivender agreed to take the job," she said. "Our Azalea audiences and our tellers know and love him, so that makes for a happy environment for everyone. I can concentrate on my stories and not worry about the festival because we will be in good hands with Ed at the helm."

The annual event will kick off at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 6, at Callaway Auditorium. This year's tellers include:

Donald Davis was born in a Southern Appalachian mountain world rich in stories.

"I didn't learn stories – I just absorbed them," he said. Many of his tales were learned from his family of traditional storytellers who have lived on the same Western North Carolina land since 1781.

A graduate of Davidson College and Duke University Divinity School, Davis served as a Methodist minister for 20 years before retiring to become a full-time storyteller.

Long a prominent member of the national storytelling scene, Davis is a celebrated master teacher of workshops and storytelling courses. In 2010, he received the National Storytelling Network's Lifetime Achievement Award. Davis has also made or contributed to more than 30 storytelling recordings. With more than a dozen books to his credit, he is an established and award-winning author.

Kevin Kling is best known for his popular commentaries on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" and his storytelling stage shows such as "Tales from the Charred Underbelly of the Yule Log."

He grew up in Osseo, a Minneapolis suburb, graduating from Gustavus Adolphus College in 1979 with a degree in theater. His artistry has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts, The McKnight Foundation, The Minnesota State Arts Board, The Bush Foundation, The Jerome Foundation and others.

Kling was born with a congenital birth defect — his left arm is about three-quarters the size of his right arm, and his left hand has no wrist or thumb. Further injuries were incurred in a motorcycle accident. Currently, he has partial use of his left arm and cannot use his right arm at all. Despite these challenges Kling continues to write plays and stories in a rigorous fashion.

He performs his stories at national and international venues including the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tenn.

He has released six CD collections of his stories, and published five books, most recently "Big Little Mother."

Bil Lepp is a nationally renowned storyteller and five-time champion of the West Virginia Liars' Contest. His tall tales and insightful stories often contain morsels of truth which shed light on subjects such as politics, religion, relationships and human nature.

A storyteller, author and recording artist, Lepp's works have received awards and recognition from the Parents' Choice Foundation, the National Parenting Publications Association, Storytelling World, and the Public Library Association.

He has been featured many times at the National Storytelling Festival and at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, as well as at major storytelling and corporate events across the country.

Lepp is the author of three books of tall tales, a novel "Halfdollar,"one DVD and nine audio collections. His first picture book, "The King of Little Things," was published in 2013. He lives in Charleston, W.V., with his wife and two children.

Carol Cain is a native of Hogansville. For the past 18 years, she has performed as Rosie the Riveter, sharing with audiences of all ages the stories of women workers in World War II.

During the summer of 2008, she served as emcee and as a teller for the Georgia Showcase at the National Storytelling Network Conference in Gatlinburg, Tenn. Utah's Timpanogos Storytelling Festival welcomed her to the national stage in the fall of 2011.

Cain also appeared in BYU TV's "What's Your Story?" a documentary with Donald Davis filmed on North Carolina's Ocracoke Island. An experienced educator, she now spends a good portion of her summers telling stories for Vacation Reading Programs throughout the state. She has released her first collection of stories, "Alive in Hogansville," in CD and DVD format.



Ed Stivender is taking the reins as emcee this year. This renowned storyteller, minstrel and banjo player grew up in Springfield, Pa., attending Catholic parochial schools.

After earning a master's degree in theology from Notre Dame, he taught religion in a Catholic high school in Connecticut, where he honed his performance skills and learned the art of "controlled foolishness."

Described as "the Robin Williams of storytelling" and "a Catholic Garrison Keillor," Stivender is recognized as one of America's finest storytellers. He was inducted into The National Storytelling Association's Circle of Excellence in 1996.

Stivender is the author of "Raised Catholic (Can You Tell?)" and "Still Catholic After All These Fears."

Tickets are $35 for the full festival, $15 for Friday evening, $30 for Saturday, $10 for Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon, and $15 for Saturday evening. Student tickets can be purchased at a discount, and admission is free Sunday morning. To see a full schedule, visit the festival's website.

Tickets will be available at the door or by calling (706) 882-9909.



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