Jan Term cranks up here and abroad

Storyteller Syd Lieberman spins a tale at the 2009 festival. He will return for this year’s event.

Storytelling Festival brings fun to Callaway stage

The Azalea Storytelling Festival returns to Callaway Auditorium March 2 – 4 for its 16th season.

A past winner of the National Storytelling Leadership Award, the event will feature five nationally known artists, as well as the talents of Carol Cain of Hogansville, who will serve again as emcee.

Kevin Kling
Kevin Kling
Bil Lepp
Bil Lepp
Syd Lieberman
Syd Lieberman
Barbara McBride-Smith
Barbara McBride-Smith
Carol Cain
Carol Cain

New this year will be Kevin Kling , who is best known for his popular commentaries on National Public Radio’s “ All Things Considered” and his storytelling stage shows like “ Tales from the Cha rred Underbelly of the Yule Log.”

His autobiographical tales are called “as enchanting as they are true to life” – stories of hopping freight trains, getting hit by lightning, performing his banned play in Czechoslovakia, growing up in Minnesota, and eating things before knowing what they are.

Kling grew up in Osseo, a Minneapolis suburb, and graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College in 1979 with a degree in theater. His storytelling started when a friend from the now defunct Brass Tacks Theatre asked him to perform his stories. Since then, he has been awarded numerous arts grants and fellowships. The National Endowment for the Arts, The McKnight Foundation, The Minnesota State Arts Board, The Bush Foundation, The Jerome Foundation and others have recognized Kling’s artistry.

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. More than five years ago, Kling was in a motorcycle accident. Currently, he has partial use of his left arm and cannot use his right arm at all.

However, he continues to write plays and stories in a rigorous fashion, and travels around the globe to numerous storytelling festivals and residencies, and has been invited to perform the acclaimed National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tenn., for several years. Kling has released a number of compact disc collections of his stories, and has published two books, “The Dog Says How” and “Holiday Inn.”

Bil Lepp’s inaugural appearance at the festival last year was such a hit that he was invited back this year.

He is an award-winning storyteller, author and recording artist. Lepp’s recordings have received a Parent's Choice Approved award and an NAPPA Honors award. He published his first novel, “Halfdollar,” in 2008, and released a live DVD in 2009.

Growing up in a family where it was always the responsibility of the listener to decide whether or not a story was true, Lepp became adept at spinning tales and exaggerating circumstances at an early age.

A champion and veteran of the West Virginia Liars’ contest, Lepp said that while his stories may not be completely true, they are always honest.

Lepp has been featured numerous times at the National Storytelling Festival, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and major storytelling and corporate events across the country. He is the author of three books of tall tales, eight audio collections, and recently published his first novel. Lepp lives in Charleston, W.Va., with his wife and two children.

A native of Covington, Ga., Andy Offutt Irwin is a storyteller, humorist, singer, songwriter, musician, whistler, walking menagerie of sound effects and dialects, and so much more.

October 2010 marked his fourth time as a featured teller at the National Storytelling Festival, and he has been a teller in residence at International Storytelling Center five times; he has been a guest artist at La Guardia High School of Art, Music, and Performing Arts in New York (the school from “FAME”); and he has been a keynote speaker and performer at the Library of Congress-Virburnum Foundation Conference on Family Literacy.

He also does occasional theatrical projects for Oxford College of Emory University where he was artist in residence, 1991-2007. Early in his career, he performed with the comedic troupe SAK Theatre at Walt Disney World, 1984-1989. He does many different educational programs and camps for children, too, where he focuses on literacy, storytelling, music and taking care of the environment.

Irwin earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1983 from Georgia College in Milledgeville.

Syd Lieberman is an internationally acclaimed storyteller, an award-winning teacher and an author. He has appeared at major storytelling festivals across the country, including eight featured appearances at the National Festival in Jonesborough, Tenn.; at the Glistening Waters Festival in New Zealand; and on American Public Media's “Good Evening” as a guest storyteller and host. He was featured in “The Call of Story,” a television special, and has received commissions to write and perform stories across the country.

He grew up in Albany Park, on Chicago's North Side, and attended Harvard College. He began teaching high school English in 1967. On another whim in 1982, he took a summer class in storytelling, which became his second career. He retired from high school teaching in 2000.

Lieberman is known for his varied repertoire. Many of his best-loved stories deal with growing up and raising a family in Chicago. He is also known for his original historical pieces and his signature versions of literary tales, especially those of Edgar Allan Poe. He is one of the country's leading tellers of Jewish tales. The National Storytelling Network inducted him into the Circle of Excellence for his work as a storyteller.

Barbara McBride-Smith grew up in Texas, was educated in Massachusetts, discovered the ways of the world on the Jersey shore, and finally settled down in Oklahoma. She has been a school librarian for 44 years and a seminary professor for more than 20 years.

As a performing storyteller, she has entertained audiences across the U.S. and is frequently featured at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tenn. She is a member of the National Storytelling Circle of Excellence and a recipient of the John Henry Faulk Award for Outstanding Contributions to Storytelling.

She also has been featured on National Public Radio and at the International Storytelling Festival in Washington D.C. In addition to her tale-spinning, McBride-Smith has written several books, including “Greek Myths Western Style” and “Tell It Together,” and served as co-author and editor of “New Testament Women.” Her strong interest in the literature of the Bible is consistent with her position as adjunct professor at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, where she teaches future ministers how to tell Bible stories.

Carol Cain ’82 of Hogansville returns as emcee. For the past 17 years Cain has performed as Rosie the Riveter, sharing the story of women workers in World War II with audiences of all ages.  In August of 2007, her Rosie the Riveter was the opening act at the national convention of the American Legion Auxiliary in Reno, Nev. 

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

Cain first appeared at the 1999 Azalea Storytelling Festival and remains a favorite teller.  She now spends a good portion of her summers telling stories for Vacation Reading Programs throughout the state.  She has released a DVD, “Alive in Hogansville.” 

The festival officially begins on Friday, March 2, with a 7:30 p.m. storytelling concert. It continues Saturday with the first concert scheduled for 10 a.m., followed by concerts at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

The final day is Sunday, beginning with coffee and doughnuts at 8:30 a.m. and followed by sacred storytelling and music at 9:30 a.m. and 10:50 a.m.

This year’s Azalea Storytelling Festival is sponsored by Lafayette Society for Performing Arts, LaGrange College, LaGrange Memorial Library, LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce, Troup County School System and West Georgia Technical College. Additional funding is provided by the Georgia Council for the Arts.

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.

For ticket purchases, call LSPA at (706) 882-9909.


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