I have been aware of the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival for some time now. On the evening of Friday, September 4, I attended the festival for the first time ever, attending an event called “My Favorite Stories” at Orem’s SCERA Shell outdoor ampitheater. At 7 pm there was a pre-show by musician Mindy Gledhill and her band. We then heard from five storytellers. This years marked the 20th anniversary of the festival, and these “tellers” seemed to have some reputation among those who regularly attend. If you Google any of their names, you’ll find they are accomplished individuals that have recordings or books to their credit, and have been recognized with one award or another.
In terms of the physical surroundings, it was a beautiful evening. We had a nice position staked out, our territory delineated by the borders of a blanket thrown on the ground. However, just before the show a couple moved into a space just in front of us, a space saved for them by friends. The man was somewhat tall, had a large head shorn of hair, and would adjust the position of his head from time to time during the evening, which meant that I would then have to adjust the position of my head to see the performer. One of those nights . . .
Bill Lepp kicked off the evening with a fantastic tale of how as high school students he and his buddy Skeeter caused a community uproar one deer hunt season by dressing in deer outfits created by Skeeter, then driving through town in a car with an orange-hunters-vest-clad mannequin strapped to its roof.
Carmen Agra Deedy, who immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba as a girl and speaks English with a Southern accent acquired in Georgia, told of her experience as a young girl when she and her friend took revenge on her cousin who was responsible for her missing a week of monster movies on television.
The third performer, John McCutcheon. told of having been robbed on a road trip, keeping physical possessions in perspective, his relationship with his father, and then played the guitar as he sang a song about forgiveness. The lyrics of “Forgive Us” are online, and you can preview the song at another link.
Barbara McBride-Smith has worked for decades as a librarian in an Oklahoma elementary school. She told of how she cannot remember all of her thousands of students, including one named Bubba who as a full-grown man enthusiastically hugged her and picked her up off the ground when he saw her in a Wal-Mart store, and then went on to tell of a current student named Oscar that she remembers very well. During her story she mentioned several books with interesting titles, and many members of the audience applauded the books with approval – – one was The Librarian from the Black Lagoon.
The final storyteller was Bill Harley, who gave a grandiose account of his heroic efforts to catch bats that flew into the master bedroom of his home and also the bedroom of his teenage son, and he then accompanied himself on the guitar as he sang a hilarious self-praising majestic anthem titled “I Am the Batman,” during which he would with great earnestness mimic the high-pitched sounds emitted by bats. I laughed so hard that my right jaw muscles were aching before the song was over. Lyrics for this great work are also online, and the you may also preview this song online as well (unfortunately, in the recording his bat sounds don’t come close to how he performed them at the SCERA).
This was nice evening of entertainment. The theater was full the capacity, a good time was had by all I am sure. I’m still not sure exactly what I’m watching when I observe these storytellers (the first storyteller, Bill Lepp, counts among his honors winning the West Virginia Liar’s Contest 5 times), and by the end of an evening of it my interest is pretty much exhausted, but I can see myself coming back for more.