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Storytelling: A Nuclear Fission

Everyone has a good story to tell. Acquired perhaps after encountering a storytelling master. Learning a great story can change your life. Whether the transformation happens over night or takes years, it does not matter. Time stalls when a binding story unites you, and a storyteller. Then, under the right conditions, the atom you two created, is going to split. This will cause a chain reaction in which, with a new story in your pocket, you are going out into the world and share it.

Storytelling responds to a human need to bond. According to Stéphanie Bénéteau, the artistic director and spokesperson of the 15th Montreal Intercultural Storytelling Festival (being held this year from October 18-27), “storytelling connects our multiple identities and affiliations to emphasize our common humanity.”

The art of storytelling works to create a connection between the narrator and the audience. It is through sound, measure, and rhythm that a storyteller builds up a structure so the public can invent its own details.

Storytellers rely on the imagination of the other to convey their message. Like good communication, good storytelling bridges the gap between the storyteller and the audience, between us and them, and establishes an authentic connection. This bond compels us to tell the story over, and over.

In a PBS Interview, the late American writer, Toni Morrison, talked about reading Homer: “It was always extraordinary to me that he never had a villain that was only that. The cyclops,” she goes on, “who ate those men and was really an awful, awful monster, there’s that marvelous passage, (…) when he’s talking to the sheep (…) and all the men are underneath, and this last one (…) he talks to him as though he were his friend. And at that moment, you feel very sorry for this man that 20 pages earlier had been eating human beings. (…) That ability to see both sides.”

Our ability to understand and share the feelings told in a story, regardless of the complexity of the situation and the character, is what the Festival looks to emphasize. The Intercultural Storytelling Festival of Montreal was established in 1993 “to reflect Quebec’s new multiethnic, multicultural reality.”

For its 15th edition, professional storytellers from Algeria, Canada, Belgium, France, the Pyrenees and Switzerland will come to Montreal to tell stories on topic such as Local Accents, Women of the World and Mythologies which “includes the ancient Greek stories revised and updated, and explores Kabyle, Inca, Amazonian and Innu myths.”

Among Quebec’s presenters is Matt Goldberg, founder of the popular Montreal storytelling event, Confabulation, who will be talking about “Hair” on Oct. 24 in the Phi center.

Finally, for the first time, the festival presents the Battle of the Stories, created to provoke thought about the art of storytelling and stimulate public interest in it. The audience is invited to participate, listening to five stories and voting for the best story. And, on Sunday, October 20, five personalities championing stories will defend their own until there is a winner.

The 15th Montreal Intercultural Storytelling Festival offers us a great opportunity to refresh our repertoire of stories and perhaps, develop a deeper sense of how language and sound work together, while bonding with strangers.

P.S. Go out and vote on Monday.

By Lily Olivas


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