Whether they're first-timers or devoted patrons, people who plan to attend next week's Oklahoma City Storytelling Festival are encouraged to bring their sense of history, sense of humor and sense of adventure.
A box of tissues is recommended, too.
“It's like a one-man show mixed with comedy and inspiration and tears. I've cried at these before. They can be really powerful and really moving,” said Christina Foss, projects director for the Arts Council of Oklahoma City, which produces the festival.
This year, the venerable festival, which includes performances by local and nationally known storytellers, workshops and a family matinee, is shifting to a different month and venue. The 2013 event is Thursday through Aug. 24 at the Oklahoma History Center, with a few activities lined up at downtown hot spots such as the Myriad Botanical Gardens.
“The history center is all about telling the stories of Oklahomans, all Oklahomans from all walks of life,” said Dan Provo, director of the Oklahoma History Center.
“We think it's a very good fit with the Oklahoma History Center: oral history, traditions, storytelling, folk lore, folk life, all the different parts that go to make up storytelling as a wonderful and history-making, if you will, event.”
Now in its 33rd year, the festival has been going through a reinvention. About four years ago, the arts council moved the festival from February to late summer and changed the name from WinterTales to the Oklahoma City Storytelling Festival. In the past, the festival has been set downtown in the now-defunct Stage Center and under tents.
“After last year, when we had some weather issues with having it out in the tent — it was like 104 (degrees) one night and then it stormed and blew over the tent the next night — we just decided to try to look at other options,” Foss said. “Not only does storytelling have such a great historical connection — I mean, it is history — but the Oklahoma History Center, they do their own storytelling.”
The event annually brings in featured storytellers recruited from the National Storytelling Festival.
“The goal is to get a varied group of tellers so that there really is something for everyone. You're bound to like at least one of them, but will probably leave loving all of them,” Foss said.
Patrick Ball hails from California, is considered one of the world's premier Celtic harp players, and spins ancient tales in a brogue garnered through years spent in Ireland. Bostonian Judith Black tells modern, personal stories, including an award-winning one about her son's military service and return from Iraq. Alton Chung, who is of Japanese and Korean heritage, weaves a spell of stories, superstitions and magic of the Hawaiian Islands.
Featured teller Barbara McBride-Smith is based in Tulsa and works as a school librarian when she's not touring the country on the professional storytelling circuit.
“She tells Greek myths in like an Okie style, and it's really hysterical and fun,” Foss said.
In addition, Oklahoma's Territory Tellers will be showcased during free lunchtime events Aug. 23-24, when the featured tellers, along with the staff of the Oklahoma History Center and representatives from the Gold Dome Multicultural Society, will teach workshops as part of the festival.
Festivalgoers and workshop attendees will have the opportunity to tour the history center for no additional charge.
The featured tellers also will participate in the art council's Art Moves program, which offers free lunchtime performances at various downtown locales. Ball will take his harp along for a noon concert Thursday at First National Center, while Black and Chung will give a festival sneak preview at noon Aug. 23 at Midtown Market.
At 8 p.m. Aug. 24, the council will offer a free performance including all four featured tellers at the Myriad Gardens Great Lawn Stage. The public is invited to bring lawn chairs, blankets and picnics to the festival's closing event.
“Having it out in the open there and free at the Myriad Gardens, we're hoping to bring in a new audience, maybe people passing by who wouldn't normally go see the Storytelling Festival,” Foss said. “(We're) hoping to gain some new fans.”