Personal story was as prevalent at the National Storytelling Festival as cowboy boots on young Tennessee women at the Johnson City Red Lobster the night I ate there. If your looking for a ratio, I estimate, and roughly, it was two out of three.
Since Jonesborough is in the South, it was no big surprise that many of these true tales involved faith. That’s no problem, no problem at all, for me, a genuine born-again, Southern evangelical Christian.
There were Jewish tales from Syd Lieberman and Shonaleigh. There were Christian tales by Donald Davis, Geraldine Buckley, Victoria Burnett, Tim Lowry and Elizabeth Ellis who fought David-vs-Goliath against local and national government agencies. There were tales that seemed almost Christian, if taller than true from Bil Lepp, Methodist minister turned comedic storyteller and five-time winner of the West Virginia State Liars’ contest. Lepp was the first teller I heard and I must admit I had to resist shouting “Amen, brother. Preach on!” when his story involved fondue recalling how I almost set my hair on fire coming a tad too close to Sterno hosting the ladies of my small church group.
But perhaps the most inspiring picture of faith didn’t mention faith much if at all. It must have taken great faith for Brazilian born, Portuguese speaking Antonio Rocha to leave his native country and set up camp in the U.S. with grant funding to perfect English, perform and study mime. His inner battle when he traveled farther north to Maine with early winter sunsets and sub zero cold to live with a family he didn’t know and obtain a BA in theatre is “fish-out-of-water” universal and raises empathy.
Rocha won that battle and was still in the U.S. when he turned forty. Because “life begins at 40,” to commemorate this milestone Rocha and a son of his Maine host family traveled to Africa. Rocha, a student of Marcel Marceau, uses mime movements to artistically illustrate his last steps to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Was his elephant experience during safari true or tall? You’ll have to find out for yourself!
Rocha has told around the globe. Taste for yourself.