Tell me a story!”
Children say these words all the time, and they quickly pick out the best storytellers among their immediate family. My brother is a very funny guy who tells off-kilter stories that my children and grandchildren adore. The grandkids know I’m a good source for stories about their parents, especially about their parents messing up when they were young. We have a tradition at celebrations of telling stories about the birthday person while we eat cake.
Kids love stories, and many area children have grown up listening to three fabulous storytellers – Cynthia Restivo, BZ Smith and Bill Roberson – at children’s events, for example at the public library or at Out of Hand or the Strawberry Music Festival. But just one look at the audience will tell you that the adults who bring them to these events are as enthralled as the youngsters. So truth be told, adults love stories as much as children.
That’s the reasoning behind the program “For Adult Ears Only,” an event that’s in its 13th year. Every year in March, Tuolumne County residents can enjoy adult-themed stories. Now, please don’t read this to mean risqué or racy stories, for that’s not what you’ll hear should you buy a ticket for this event. Rather, these stories are just a bit more sophisticated in content, addressing ideas and material that is often universally experienced or felt by adults.
While the program is designed for a mature audience, the beneficiaries of the concert are still children. One of the sponsors is Delta Kappa Gamma, an organization whose mission is “to educate the world.” The funds generated from ticket revenues go to the Read to Me program, which makes sure that every baby born in a Tuolumne County hospital leaves with a book in the gift bags that are presented to new mothers.
The Mother Lode Storytelling Guild also sponsors this event, and we can thank its members for a rich and varied program. Each year, “For Adult Ears Only” programming alternates between featuring a local storyteller and one from outside the region. This year, there will be three local tellers onstage; you guessed it, Cynthia Restivo, BZ Smith and Bill Roberson.
When I talked to them, they were deep in the throes of selecting the works they will present, so I can’t give you a preview. However, I know this: Bill incorporates music as he takes his listeners on journeys that arrive at deep wisdom; audiences turn bubbly in the midst of BZ’s animated performances that often use humor to nail the ah-has in the story; and Cynthia zings home a message found in seemingly commonplace events, leaving her listeners nodding with wonder and recognition.
Doesn’t this sound delicious? Top it off with the wines and dessert that are part of the ticket price and suddenly we have a truly memorable adult affair.
Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that during intermission, Cynthia will showcase her newly released book, “Hanging On,” a collection of stories that chronicle the everyday life of a California family during the Great Depression. She spent seven years collecting the oral history of Marian Moore Wolfe, upon which the book is based. As Jo Radner, past-president of the Storytelling Network notes, “Restivo presents her oral history interviews with a storyteller’s imaginative grace.”
Storytelling is a time-honored craft – inside families and in more formalized venues – for the simple reason that stories breathe life into the information we want to share with one another. Though we might not make the request aloud, we adults yearn to say, “Tell me a story.”
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