My hubbie, Patrick, our 14-month-old son, Gabe the Babe, and I braved the wailing winds to attend the WinterTales Storytelling Festival’s family matinee Sunday afternoon at Stage Center. The festival’s featured tellers provided an hour and a half of wonderful low-key entertainment for dozens of parents and children ranging from infants to teenagers.
Soldiering on despite a cold, singer-songwriter Steve Poltz opened and closed the show and played his idiosyncratic (I’m tired of using “quirky” in conjunction with “Steve Poltz.”) songs between the three storytellers’ performances. His first two numbers, “Beep, Beep, Beep,” about a talking dirt bike teaching a lonely boy to clean house, and “I’m Not a Marsupial,” a fun wordplay ditty, are off his children’s album “The Barn.”
His next two turns at the mike were the most memorable and had all the hallmarks of his trademark made-up-on-the-fly songs. In honor of his nasty cold, he crooned about a boy who buys a new head from a catalog to replace his frequently ill noggin. The other was a funny and slightly scary (for the kids, anyway) tale about a lonely villain who kidnaps children and sews them to the walls of his cave with his sewing machine.
He closed the show with the heartfelt “Leavin’ Again,” from the movie “Jack Frost.”
In between, , Nancy Donoval, Syd Lieberman and Dovie Thomason, the three featured storytellers at this year’s festival, delivered interesting tales in vastly differing styles.
Donoval (pictured) paid tribute to her second-grade teacher, who not only put her on the path to becoming a storyteller by casting her as the narrator for the class production of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” but also took the class on the best field trip ever — without leaving the schoolhouse. The field trip was to the “forbidden planet” of the bathroom of the opposite gender, and the Minneapolis, Minn., resident spun the yarn with great details, including how the teacher, who later became the school’s principal, got in trouble for letting the class play in the restrooms.
A former schoolteacher, Lieberman wrangled eight young volunteers who provided sound effects on his lively story about a blacksmith desperate to gain some peace and quiet. The audience also was asked to contribute noises for the performance.
Thomason got the audience to sing along as she wove a touching tale drawn from her Kiowa, Apache and Lakota relatives. The story centered on an orphaned boy who is abandoned by his hard-hearted uncle and adopted by a family of bears.
The family matinee offered an quiet but fun afternoon of entertainment, and it’s worth checking out at next year’s festival.